The following blog topic is from Phyllis Weiss Haserot, a noted expert on cross-generational issues. In short, she is a very cool woman – so listen to her message my friends.
While no surprise to the people who know me, I love working with young people. That stated, I also encounter the nonverbal cues challenge in my work with Gen Y’ers (aka the millennial generation.)
Nonverbal communication skills will be critical to your success – and awareness is the start to improving those nonverbal skills. And yes, I also see the same issues in some of the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers I work with – including the Gen X’er I see when I look in the mirror. More to come on this topic in our upcoming programs…
Peace out – Martin Fox with the Center for Global Leadership
HOW LACK OF NONVERBAL CUES HINDERS CROSS-GENERATIONAL COMMUNICATION
by Phyllis Weiss Haserot
Spending so much time with texting and e-mail as well as Facebook from a young age, Gen Y has developed less skill than previous generations reading nonverbal cues and interpreting tone of voice, pauses, etc., that can be experienced in person or on the phone. Gen Yers use cell phones more for texting than for voice calls. It seems the lack of nonverbal communication experience would impede interviewing skills and negotiating skills. The primarily electronic communicators are missing expressive behaviors which transmit feelings, attitudes, reactions and judgments. This becomes even more significant and potentially damaging in the cross-cultural circumstances of a world of global economic and political dependency.
And many Gen Yers don’t realize that others, particularly other generations, do see non-verbal meaning in behavior such as checking e-mail, etc. during meetings and not looking at a person who is talking to them because they are multi-tasking.
While it may reduce tensions for other generations to realize that this behavior is not intentionally rude, but rather is just young people acting on what they know (or don’t know), the fact is the latter tend not to be well equipped for negotiations, interviewing, navigating the “political” dynamics of the workplace, or even their own job interviews. These have always been vital business skills.
I suppose one could argue that as more business is done electronically, skills in reading nonverbal cues won’t be as important. How valid is that? Will interaction become so depersonalized?
For the time being, negotiating, interviewing and influencing skills remain central to success for professionals and other knowledge workers. Employers and managers need to be sensitive to teachable moments and to provide training early on in what we might term “holistic” communications skills.
* The generational chronology for easy reference: Generations are defined by the similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, economic – that existed as the individuals of particular birth cohorts were growing up. Given that premise, the age breakdowns for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are approximately:
Traditionalists: born 1925-1942
Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
Generation X born 1963-1978
Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998