Are the Generations That Much Different from Each Other? - [website] Email Print
Published: 14th of Jun 2019 by: Carolyn Kessler

I recently worked with a group that comprised largely Millennials. When I mentioned this to a friend, she made the 'poor you' face. I understood where she was coming from, because very few people miss out on the opportunity of bashing this generation - it's almost become an international sport!

She followed the 'furrowed brow' look with an oft repeated statement that I must have had a dreadful time trying to get them off of their phones...(FYI - this is a frustration I have with people across the age spectrum!)

Generalisation works in the reverse: "She's 55? How on earth can she be expected to take on new information? She's from the dark ages!"

Okay, let's analyse this closed-minded thinking a little:

Labeling millions of people, young or old, as being one type of person is empirically flawed. Take a quick squiz around you - how easy is it to label all the 30 – 45 year olds as being one type of person? The 45 - 55 year old's another? The over 55's? Do they all think the same, talk about the same stuff, make the same mistakes? Or, are they each an individual with their own specific issues and talents?

Sure - they'll have some commonalities given each group likely grew up in an era where they listened to similar music, watched the same television programmes and wore the same type of clothes. Does this make them all the same?

Obviously not! They come from different backgrounds, races, religions, areas and, most importantly, were born with their own specific personality traits. These variations are just as likely to inform their attitudes and interests.

Given we train on Diversity and Emotional Intelligence, understanding how subtly prejudice forms and manifests is something about which I am highly sensitive. And, judging a person by the year in which they were born, is essentially prejudice.

The same can be said about society's attitude towards older people. It's a common belief that older people aren't open to learning. I can cite many instances where this is patently false. One that's close to home is the fact that I have two millennial daughters who ask me for information on how their phones work - for them, the phone is merely a tool, not fascinating in its own right. For me, it's a wonder of the modern age!! My dad, at 91, outstripped me in his investigative attitude towards his cell phone. Are these anomalies?

Yes and no! But, if we pre-judge everyone according to what contemporary thinking dictates, we’re going to miss the anomalies, of which there are many. In fact, the differences between people of similar ages are legion.

I love hard rock music, my one friend loves classical and Disney tunes, my husband bops to bubble-gum pop. Yet we're all of an age. My daughters love 1960's/1970's rock as well as Disney tunes and classical. And the list of differences goes on.

So yes - there are definitely commonalities amongst groups of similarly aged people, but there are just as many differences. If we stop pre-judging (prejudice), we’ll be able to tap into the person as a whole and expand our understanding of what motivates, entertains and rounds that individual out.

Our Diversity and Emotional Intelligence workshops deal with identifying our attitude towards- and learning how to effectively leverage the differences between us, including tools that facilitate our employing this vital skill.

Staff Training is a South African soft skills training provider with more than 60 workshops on offer.

Email us at for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660

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