Is every generation viewed like this by the previous generations? When did Millennials become the enemy? Furthermore, why do people forget that Millennials were raised and influenced by the older and seemingly “better” generations?
This question was posed to me today by a vey intelligent, kind, and hard-working Millennial. He and I have worked alongside each other for almost four years and he, like so many of you, has been disillusioned by those who were supposed to teach him, to embrace everything he is. I promised him that I would answer this today and do it for all of you. Here goes:
Yes, all generations view the next one down as “those kids today.” It’s hard to embrace change in any form but especially, I think, when it comes in a way you can’t understand or control. I remember my parents and grandparents grumbling about my music, my language, my friends’ clothing. It isn’t about who raised you; it’s about how you behave now. I remember hearing that I was a poor reflection of the good people who raised me because I was not like the Boomers who raised me. They wanted me to reflect their values, their choices, their ways because it was all they knew. It’s about expectation and how it’s supposed to be. You, my friends, implode expectations every moment. And you are never good with “what’s supposed to be.” I have learned and grown to love that about you. That’s part of the problem. You are scary and a little intimidating because you don’t fit the expectation. Let me explain a little if you don’t mind.
I learned about the working world, the politics realm, the spiritual realm, even the adult realm from those who went before me. I didn’t have a constant cell phone with the ability to look up every piece of info I needed. I had to ask. I didn’t have the bravery to blow through stereotypes because I had never seen a minority president, a gay senator, a disabled Congresswoman, a woman Secretary of State. I did well, as did my peers. But we learned a certain way from those before us. Sure, we tweaked what we didn’t like. We changed things- incrementally. But for the most part, every thing I know, I learned from observation or from going and learning from others by asking. That’s what we want you to do, expect you to do. Learn, listen, observe and when you have learned and you are “seasoned” you can step into the paths we have blazed for you, doing it our way with a few tweaks incrementally. We want you to learn and to be an adult like we did, work long hours like we did, wait your turn like we did, stay silent like we often did.
But you, my millennials? Hell No. That’s not your style. And it creates the same old stuff that has always created friction. Fear, resentment, misunderstanding, frustration, anger, and eventually, name-calling and refusal to change mindsets. I will tell you what I tell my non-Millennial peers: working with Millennials takes a VERY different approach than you are prepared for. But if you can do it, hold on to your butts. Because they will take over the world and it will be incredible.
I am going to start recommending books for you all to read (another topic coming VERY soon). I’ll start now. Brene Brown, Rising Strong. She says we make up stories in our head and then we act on it. This creates misunderstanding and bad communication and wrong perceptions. So, we have made up the story (using “we” generally) that you are entitled and lazy and selfish and apathetic. You, in turn, make up the story that we hate you, don’t trust you, don’t listen to you and don’t care about your input. And, because we have two competing stories, that we each believe to be true, we cease listening and start screaming for the other to understand. Steven Covey once said “Before you can be understood, you must seek to understand.”
How do you and I get past this? I need to assume that the story I made up in my head (that you are lazy and entitled and bored with my generation) is WRONG. And I needed to start asking you for the truth. And instead of speaking what I want you to hear, I need to listen. You know what? I did. And you stunned me with your intelligence, your generosity, your ability to see much bigger than my limited view. You moved me with your compassion, your desire to want to change your world. I realized that I no longer needed for you to learn it my way. I needed to guide you through your own way. I needed to be there with some wisdom about relationships and negotiations, some history about what might work and what won’t. But the most successful moments came when I let you do it YOUR way. I just helped.
Please know, my friends, that the Gen Xers and Boomers aren’t bad people. We don’t understand your world and we want you to follow the rules that make sense to us. We are scared- deep down- that because you aren’t learning from us, learning our way, that you are going to destroy what we have worked our whole lives to build. It’s a control thing, y’all- one of the oldest struggles in the human existence. We are scared of your technological prowess, we are bothered by your multi-tasking (a topic for another day), we want you to be respectful in our way because that was demanded of us. It’s the only thing we know. And so I ask you, knowing this, to please be patient with us.
I know that you are not going to destroy this world. I know that you are our hope. I know that you will take this world by force or by choice. You will run us over (which is what we are scared of) or we can help you shape the world you want to see by sharing our experience and our wisdom. By choice, yours and mine, is what I want more than anything. We don’t hate you, we just don’t understand. It seems we have a great deal of that all around, doesn’t it?
Take over the world my millennials.
I love you so-