How to Talk with Millennials

February 8, 2018

I hear a lot of griping about Millennials.

 

Born somewhere between the early 1980s through the late 1990s, this cohort has a bad rap.

 

“Millennials are entitled.”  “They expect participation trophies.” “Their faces never leave their phones.”   “It’s impossible to keep their attention.”  “They require constant validation.”  On it goes…

 

These comments are often accompanied by an eye roll and a heavy sigh.

 

There are over 75 million individuals in this generational cohort, and they are a diverse group.  In fact, the millennial generation is the most diverse in American history. Minorities make up 44 percent of the Millennials living in the U.S. today (source: www.brookings.edu).

 

So what is one thing that they have in common?  All Millennials are more and less connected than previous generations were at their age.

 

The wonder of modern technology connects this generation to what is going on in the world in new and exciting ways.  Social media and the 24/7 news cycle make it easy to stay current.  Millennials know a lot about a lot of things.

 

But make no mistake, while it’s easier to stay connected to the world, many Millennials are struggling to connect live, in-person, one-to-one.  

 

They seem more comfortable with texting than talking, and many Millennials feel uncertain about social dynamics.  (Thus, the rise of businesses like The Art of Charm, a site that offers tips and classes to improve social skills).  From tenuous eye contact to their love of informality, some Millennials struggle to communicate with us on our terms, and they know it.

 

But as their managers, parents, teachers, and peers, we need to connect with Millennials!   How should we talk with them to bring out their best qualities? 

 

Here are some suggestions that I’ve picked up from ten years of teaching this generation in corporate classrooms, and as a Mom of three wonderful twentysomething daughters:

 

Tip #1) “Stop Referring to us as Millennials!” 
This term has become “heavy” with derogatory meaning and many members of this generation do not like the term…not at all.  I’ve heard this again and again from the young professionals that I’ve taught and coached.

 

Tip #2) “Get to know us.” 
For this cohort, relationships are very important.  “Spend time with us before you lead us. We want to know you so that we can trust you, and we want you to know us.”  This may take a little more time up front, but the payoff is immense.

 

Tip #3) “Be authentic.” 
This generation wants to follow leaders who are real people trying to do good work.  Sharing your mistakes and life lessons go a long way to build trust with this group.  Your honesty will give you credibility.  Don’t rely on your title for that.

 

Tip #4) “Provide us with context and purpose.” 
An understanding of the big picture empowers this group to add real value.  Millennials want to contribute, but they need help with context.  Sure, they don’t have the life experience others do, that that doesn’t mean they can’t give valuable input based up their strengths and education.  Plus, they see problems from a different perspective – one that you probably need to hear.

 

Tip #5) “Get to the point.” 
Your message better be crisp.  Can you relate to information overload?  It’s hard enough for us to keep up with email and the news, but most twentysomethings add more information to the mix from sources like: Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest, Google+, Meetup, Linked In, You Tube, Flickr, Facebook (to stay in touch with us) and more!  Clarity is key.

 

Personal, real, purposeful, and crisp – that’s how to talk with Millennials!

 

Cheers,
Cheryl

 

P.S. – This approach works well for the rest of us too.

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