Recently, a Boomer was talking to her Gen Y niece who needed some help with her high school project. The aunt suggested calling a family friend who could help her. Her niece's response to the suggestion?
"That's way too confrontational!"
For the first time in history, the way we communicate with each other is contingent upon the generation into which we were born. Traditionalists (born before 1946) and Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), often don't get texting and social networking. They prefer face-to-face, telephone, or email communication. In contrast, Gen X (born 1964 to 1977) and Gen Y (born 1977 to 1994) prefer texting and instant messaging.
How does this play out in terms of generational communication in terms of your real estate business?
Traditionalists place high value on respect, responsibility, and self sacrifice. They will give up what matters to them personally if it's for the higher good. This is the ultimate service to the community. They communicate best through traditional channels such as handwritten notes, face-to-face communication, and by telephone.
The issue for Traditionalists is that the younger generations do not share these values. As a result, it's common for Traditionalists to misunderstand what matters to younger agents and clients. For example, many Traditionalists believe that younger people should respect them and communicate the way they want. Younger generations typically expect Traditionalists to communicate the way that they do.
Boomers, the original Me Generation, focus more on their personal experience. Service to the community and self sacrifice is not as important as “finding” or “being true to yourself.” Nevertheless, making a difference to their community is a key belief for most Boomers.
In terms of communication, Boomers prefer handwritten, email, or telephone communication. Communication serves to build trust and relationships. From their perspective, you don’t build relationships by text messaging, even though more and more Boomers relent in order to communicate with the Gen X and Gen Y grandchildren.
The fact of the matter is that texting pales in comparison to face-to-face communication that is rich in body language or telephone communication that incorporates intonation, inflection, and a host of other nonverbal signals about what is happening with the person sending the communication. Boomers believe that these other components are critical for effective communication. For them, service generally arises from personal beliefs rather than from duty or responsibility.
Gen X believes “Let’s break the rules” and "I’ll do it my way." When the Boomers went off to work to make money, many Gen X kids were left alone to figure things out without adult supervision. They learned to rely on themselves and their personal research to make decisions. As a group, many have poor face-to-face skills since they had little face-to-face interaction at home. This trait makes it hard for Gen X'ers to work collaboratively. They believe that personally researching information is the best way to approach decisions. Gen X wants the information, but usually not the relationship.
Gen Y's focus is community based. The “New Me Generation,” approaches decision making based upon what their peers agree to be important. The challenge for Gen Y's is that they focus only on input from their peers without regard to the experience and wisdom of other generations. Furthermore, they have difficulty making decisions by themselves. They often rely on peer based data that has no basis inexperience. Because they agree, it must be right.
Ultimately, the best thing we can do to communicate more effectively with each other is to ask, “How would you like me to communicate with you?” We must then be willing to meet the other person where they are in terms of their communication. The best of all possible approaches occurs when both parties are willing to adjust their style to fit the other person’s preferred communication style.
Posted by Bernice Ross
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