From Socrates throughout recorded history and to the present day, the older generation has moaned about the younger one. It’s harsh, but it seems to be jolly good sport for older generations to criticise their younger folk. Today, it’s Millennials taking proper flak from the boomers. Did you know you’re a bunch of lazy, self-entitled liberal snowflakes? (And why are you still living with your parents?)
Knowing that this has always been the way of things is a good start for letting the noise go over your head, but it’s how you respond to the complaining that will make the difference.
Here are 3 ways to polish your manners, charm the boomers – and anyone else – with your impeccable behaviour and leave the haters steaming with no reason to moan.
Firstly, you’re great at knowing when to say no – not for you the ‘round-the-clock’ working hours in pursuit of a 6-figure income. You want that work-life balance to be in your favour. But is there a way of saying ‘no’ that keeps everyone happy? Yes, there is. When you’re asked to do something that doesn’t fit in with your schedule, acknowledge the request and the person who’s made it. Then, give one (and only one) clear reason why the task is not for you and see if you can come up with an alternative suggestion to keep the mood sweet.
Secondly, to avoid the label of ‘me, me, me’, try asking some great questions and practice your listening skills. Millennials have been accused of ‘conversational narcissism’ – a tendency to switch a conversation back to themselves and their priorities – so make sure you notice if you’ve done this and be sure to go back to the other person and ask more about them. Balancing a conversation is a skill to practice, but you can’t be accused of self-interest if you’ve intentionally spent time inquiring after someone else!
Thirdly, you’re apparently over-sensitive souls who have none of the British Bulldog spirit that defeated our enemies in the past. As galling as this can be, it’s time to dish out the flattery to those who challenge how you interact with the world. Anyone who expresses a view that their way of doing things is the best way, is revealing a need to be acknowledged and a desire to have their status recognised. Take a breath, smile, and offer some appreciation for their beliefs. Ask them their opinion – try ‘What do you think about..?’ or ‘How do you feel about…?’ If you do this well enough, you’ll get the chance to put across your own views and maybe even start to influence theirs.
Changing minds is hard – and we can’t do it by standing on the other side of the argument and shouting rebuttals. As Stephen Covey said, ‘Seek to understand, before you can be understood.’ Manners are polite ways of behaving – considering others and putting their needs ahead of ours. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth the effort.
About the expert
Janie Van Hool is a prominent communication expert specialising in leadership development programmes and executive coaching. Janie teaches the art of communication, presence and impact to professionals in a range of organisations, from the construction industry to investment banking. As Founder and Director of VoicePresence (www.voicepresence.co.uk), Janie has worked as a workshop facilitator and 1:1 coach for more than 20 years, enhancing the communication skills of executives and creating listening company cultures. Janie is the acclaimed author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organization by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you (Practical Inspiration, 2021). The book explores the power of listening, which often flies under the radar when it comes to communication in business. It is the ultimate guide to learning how to cut through the noise and listen expertly. The Listening Shift draws on the learning and experiences she has gained as a RADA-trained classical actress, a voice teacher (she has an MA in Voice Studies), from her research into Performance Psychology at Edinburgh University, and from her years volunteering as a listener for Samaritans in the UK.