By Greg Hammond, CFP®, CPA
Generational disconnect or differences exist in all families. Every generation develops its own style of expression, methods for handling conflict, and values. Even tech-savvy parents are likely to feel that virtual connecting and 24/7 technology lacks sufficient depth to replace face-to-face conversation. Kids, on the other hand, feel that Mom and Dad just don’t get it and can barely turn on the TV without help.
Many times the older generation hasn’t clearly communicated their values and why they have them. The younger generation doesn’t understand, and thinks the values are old fashioned. When these generational differences are not addressed, they drift into a growing disconnect. Here are a few things that deepen the divide:
- You leave no room for ideas other than your own. Without mutual respect for each other’s opinion, and an attitude of humility that listens to understand, conflict arises and generational disconnect deepens.
- Past experiences where work seemed more important than family are not easily forgotten or forgiven.
- Making quick decisions because we don’t have time to think about the consequences, then not discussing hurt feelings when they occur.
Overcome Generational Disconnect
One of the most powerful tools to combat generational disconnect is humility. Humility frees us to listen with an attitude of respect and an expectation to learn. Humility can be practiced by any generation. For example, when a grandparent invites their grandchild to express their opinion on an important matter – and actively listens – the grandchild’s self-esteem rises and the grandparent learns something they may have missed. This doesn’t mean the grandparent yields their right to decide; it means that he or she is modeling humility and teaching responsible expression.
Listen to Understand
When was the last time you went to your adult child and asked for guidance on something? The same mind that asked you to read a certain story 50 times can probably explain something to you that would be just as revealing as your story was to them.
All generations have a responsibility to develop active listening skills. But it is particularly powerful when the family leader models them.
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