Be honest, have you ever started a sentence with, “In my day…?”
Maybe you haven’t said it aloud, but perhaps you’ve thought it.
It’s easy to do. As a father of a teen and a preteen, I often slip into comparisons of my childhood. It’s not as bad as “walking five miles to school barefoot in the snow,” but it comes close. I will think about Saturday morning cartoons, riding my bike throughout the neighborhood and playing Wiffleball all summer.
We all have stories and experiences that shape our perspective on the world.
For example, Traditionalists (born before 1945) were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II.
In his book, Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, Haydn Shaw identifies “ghost stories” for each generation. These are the seminal events or trends that have a lasting impact on each generation.
Here are some examples:
- Traditionalists (now aged 74 or older): The Great Depression, World War II, the move from farm to city, mass marketing and confidence in experts
- Baby Boomers (now aged 55-73): the baby boom, affluence, television, and the generation gap
- Generation X (now aged 39-54): Divorce, downward mobility and parody
- Millennials (now aged 18-38): Helicopter parenting, technology everywhere and post-9/11
Because of these different perspectives, it can be difficult to communicate effectively. For example, if you are a baby boomer and grew up in an age of affluence, it can be challenging to understand the scarcity mindset of traditionalist who experienced the Great Depression.
How do you find success? First you must understand the other person’s perspective and then adapt. In other words, it’s not about “in your day” – it’s about your client’s day.
Here’s an example: an advisor recently shared with me that a client couple asked him to help their granddaughter get started with investing. He called and left several messages to set a meeting but never heard back from her. Since she’s a millennial, her preferred method of communicating is through text. Additionally, she’s less like to be as trusting of experts as her grandparents.
The advisor needed to adapt. He asked for guidance from the parents. They recommended that they reach out to her first and let her know who he was and why he wanted to reach her. Then he sent her a text message and suggested a short video call to introduce himself.
How about you? Are you adapting to other generations or are you letting your personal experiences dictate how you communicate?