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Bridging the Generation Gap: What You Can Learn from Someone Older (or Younger) than You

May 24, 2013
Brian Carrigan

There is now, and always will be, a generation gap so profound that groups on both ends of the age spectrum might think their counterparts are from another planet.

Dare I say that’s a good thing, because within this gap – which can extend from the oldest World War II-era citizen to the youngest Generation Z digital whiz-kid – there is much to share and much to learn. It all begins with the willingness to communicate and relate.

In most families and in many workplaces these days, there’s a considerable range of ages, experiences, values and vernacular. There is hardly a place, public or private, where people from different generations don’t interact. And for all their differences, the generations often have a lot in common, perhaps more than they’d care to admit (although it does seem almost every American alive shares a modicum of respect for Batman).

Brian Carrigan

Brian Carrigan
Founder & Co-Manager

One thing to ponder is that we’ve all seen incredible technological advancements in our lifetimes. In fact, in some minds, the development of iPhones, social media and other new-age communications tools is more riveting or memorable than the day somebody in the neighborhood bought the first color TV on the block.

We’ve also seen considerable changes in how society deals with issues like sex, drugs, race and religion. Communities and institutions are rapidly becoming more inclusive, adaptive, and tolerant. But to try to keep in mind that some seniors grapple with offending images they see and hear on a daily basis. It’s hard for some young people to believe that at one time the married Lucy and Desi slept in separate beds on their television show, and that most places of business were locked up tight on Sundays.

While the younger generation might argue that the older generation should be more open and accepting, young people should value their elders’ experience and history as a practical, as well and anecdotal, resource. The stories of lives lived before our own give meaning and value to the inventions, discoveries and privileges we now all enjoy.

Meaningful collaboration can happen at any age with honest (because every generation is sufficiently “hip” enough to smell phony a mile away) communication. For both the young and the old, remember that listening is just as important as speaking. I think I’m secure enough to admit there’s plenty I don’t know – and plenty I’d like to learn.

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