Communicating across the Ages: The Cultural Gap

 I gave a talk yesterday to a group of young people aged mostly 25-35 and I realized quickly that although  I was used to being one of the most dynamic and energetic people in the room, with these youngsters, I was, perhaps not dull…but certainly out of touch with their generation. I watched, I learned, I took notes. What did I find?

I learned when giving speeches to youngsters, use pictures of cute furry animals and include looped short videos of humans doing dumb things (that probably hurt a lot).

You might ask yourself, how in the world do these two things relate to the topics being presented? Here’s the funny thing – they don’ all. There was zero rhyme or reason to including such things but nonetheless, they were sure crowd pleasers. Upon reflection, as I’m known for doing, the scientific reason is likely based on the need to feel happy and awake. It was a curious learning experience for me but duly noted!

Now to the flip side – speaking to a group of people much older than me, I find the comments need to be deeply rooted in their personal area of focus and what you are saying must be immediately useful. Why?

It seems that the distinguishing factors between the age groups has something to do with two key variables: energy and time. If you have lots of time and lots of energy, then there is room for and excitement for the cute, the funny, the daring, and usefulness ranks low on the requirements list. But as you segue up the age ladder, where energy and time are lower, there is an expectation to make it quick and to the point. Humor only wastes time and may even give the impression you are covering up a lack of deep understanding. Of course there are many other variables – including purpose of the talk, rank of the individuals in the room, goals, personalities, etc etc. But to add to that variable list…

This time-energy set may be one additional aid in helping us unlock a pathway for better communication across the ages. There is a very common saying which reads, “Know your audience.”

If we want to bring this nation together, we need to know our diverse audience – and part of that includes knowing how different age groups not only think differently but also need different communication styles to be used. Listen. Learn. Grow. Good ideas for us all to remember. – jjoy


Photo by Teemu Paananen  Jairo Alzate Kevin Schmid

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