Gen Y: Time to Get Comfortable with In-Person ConversationJune 02nd, 2012
There are a variety of reasons I chose this topic to write about today, but one recent conversation with a good friend was the thing that got me motivated to actually do it.
She was telling me how she and her 23-year old Millennial (aka: Gen Y) son, who recently graduated from college, went mattress shopping for his new apartment. During their outing together, she was chatting up a storm with everyone; the salespeople, other customers, etc.
After a while, her son finally said, “Mom, what is it with your generation? You guys talk to everyone, all the time!”
He then continued to say that he wasn’t comfortable doing that and that most people he knew, in his generation, felt the same way. However, during their 3-hour mattress-shopping afternoon together, she told me that he hardly ever stopped texting back and forth with his friends. So, “communication” isn’t the issue; “how” they are comfortable doing it is.
Anyway, after his comment, at the very next store she made an effort to hardly say a word and decided to let him handle the interaction with the 40-something sales associate. It only took about 4 minutes for her son to ask her to talk to the salesperson because he didn’t want to anymore. Rather, he was more comfortable watching his Baby Boomer mom do all the talking.
I’ve seen this “not talking much” dynamic occur in many of the workshops I conduct for Millennial employees in corporations. That is also one reason I dedicate a chapter to “communicating like a leader” in my popular book for Millennial employees, “Millennials into Leadership”. My Millennial audiences are always totally engaged, but just aren’t comfortable making comments or asking questions, even when I ask them to. However, they come up to me one-on-one afterwards, or send me emails afterwards, with questions or comments. THAT is totally different from when I conduct workshops or seminars with “older” generations in the audience (i.e. Gen X and Boomers). I typically have to monitor how much time they take up talking!
Plus, I get tons of Millennials at my leadership training workshops that openly admit they just aren’t comfortable speaking with strangers, or even work colleagues, face-to-face. AND, I hear this complaint from many of their Managers. They get very frustrated with the fact their Millennial employees don’t participate much in meetings. However, they find it odd that those same Millennials are totally okay telling them about what they did over the weekend, in lengthy detail, EVERY Monday morning.
And I have to explain that most Millennials like, and need, close ties to their bosses, and sharing their personal life is one way they try to build that “bond”. Unfortunately, that’s something that most supervisors in the workforce, 35+ years old, find very irritating.
Hence just ONE of the reasons the multi-generational workforce challenges continue…and that’s what keeps getting me booked for speaking engagements at well-known companies across the country!
The bottom line to all of this is: Most Millennials grew-up communicating electronically with their peers and that is their comfort zone. However, as I explain to them, they need to work on getting out of that online comfort zone and work at being more comfortable with in-person social settings. It is critical to their career success and relationship building professionally.
My advice to all you Millennials is to take it slow and “practice”. Go to professional networking events, at work and outside of work, or if you’re job searching, and force yourself to meet as many people as you can each time. Trust me! It gets much easier the more you do it!
Also, to get you started, follow these great tips for networking successfully at events offered by David Spinks, who wrote this article for BrazenCareerist.com, an info-packed blog site for young professionals, entitled, “13 Tips for Your First Networking Event”.
Now get out there, turn off your mobile devices, and build some new relationships by communicating the old fashioned way…in-person! Your “career” will thank you!
Bye for now,
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