My Generation…and Yours

Are we connecting with more than one generation?Are we connecting with more than one generation?

Does the title of this post mean anything to you? If so, chances are you’re a Boomer.

Baby Boomers are the people born between 1946 and 1964, and there are a lot of us. People born between 1965 and 1980 are often called Generation X—“X” as in “unknown”—and people born since 1980 were once called Generation Y (because they came after X). Now, they’re better known as Millennials. And all three generations are reading what you write.

The Who put out the song “My Generation” almost 50 years ago. It was an instant hit and became a classic.  So, you may know it even if you’re Generation X or a Millennial, as long as you’re a fan of hard rock. But if you’re a Boomer, you remember the guitar chords, the sarcastic vocals, and the taunting phrase “Hope I die before I get old.” (Keith Moon did just that.)

If you’re much younger, the song, the band, and Keith Moon’s demise may be irrelevant to you. Just like the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Biggie Smalls, and Amy Winehouse are distant facts to me.

How to Communicate Across Generations

Now, I don’t want to exaggerate generational differences. Not everything changes in fifteen-to-twenty-year intervals! The advent of cable TV and YouTube means that there are younger people discovering I Love Lucy and Monty Python’s Flying Circus all the time. And you don’t want to fall into stereotypes. There are people in their 50’s who love Sarah Silverman and Lena Dunham, and people in their 20’s who can’t stand them.

If you really want to reach an audience across generations, though, follow these rules:

  • Be friendly but not slangy. Nothing changes faster than slang. Using today’s expressions if they don’t come naturally to you may sound condescending now, dated later. And if you do use an expression like “on fleek,” remember that I might not know what it means!
  1. Be tolerant of differences. According to some people, using two spaces between sentences is a mannerism that should have gone out in the trash with the eight-track cassettes. For others, it’s the only way to write. People, can’t we all get along?
  2. Don’t assume that your target audience will pick up the same references that you do. Or you may just be talking to your generation.

About the Author

Dennis Fischman owns Communicate! Consulting, where he helps local businesses and nonprofit organizations win loyal friends through their communications. He is a former senior manager of the Community Action Agency of Somerville, where he directed fundraising, marketing, and planning. Passionate about social change, he left this position so he could focus on helping tell their stories in person, in writing, and through the social media.

Dennis Fischman – who has written posts on Empowering Serving Leaders.


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