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Talk or Text

Older people like phone calls and younger people don’t. In general. Maybe the line is around 40 give or take a few years.

It’s well documented that millennials (age 25–40 or so) think phone calls are inefficient. The younger you are, the more you think phone calls are dumb. If you have a question for someone you bang out a text message – sent – done. Probably the answer comes back in seconds. How easy was that? Phone calls are so tedious and a waste of time.

“And if you want to talk on the phone with me,” the under-40 is thinking, “schedule it. Calling someone without warning is so rude.” The idea is that a text or email allows the recipient to respond at their convenience. A phone call is an instant demand for attention.

A phone call is an instant show of respect, thinks the over-40. I want to focus exclusively on you. And if I miss you I will leave a message and you will call me back; another show of respect. Without even talking yet we are building a trust relationship! And when we do talk I will get my questions answered, get more questions answered instantly, and clarify anything I’m unsure of. Doing business in real time is so efficient.

Here’s the problem: when one generation puts expectations on another that they didn’t volunteer for or consent to. What seems respectful and efficient to one person is not the same for all people. And different communication styles are more more pronounced now than ever before in human history. This is because some of us grew up with texting and some of us didn’t.

It’s like some of us grew up in a foreign country and some of us didn’t. Over-40’s are the immigrants. We grew up in a different world of communications technology; with a different native language and a different culture than the world we are in today.

If you are a text native (under-40, grew up with texting), take pity on the immigrant and help them adapt and thrive in the new world. Don’t take it as “disrespect” when you get approached in weird ways or talked to in broken English.

If you are a text immigrant (over 40) try your best to adapt to ways of the new world. If you are in a boss/parent role you get to prescribe if/when/how people call or text you. But if you need to get along with natives you don’t supervise, best to conform to their customs as best as you can even if clumsy.

It’s hard not to apply my old world cultural norms. I want to insist on phone calls and returned calls. Yet new world inhabitants never agreed to take phone calls or return my phone calls. And it’s not fair for me to expect them too.

Some practical tips? (1) If in a work relationship, establish norms for when you will talk and when you will text. (2) In any kind of intergenerational relationship, mention that you grew up with different ways. Just naming the differences is a huge start to bridging the differences. (3) Don’t judge that your way is best or that you know what’s best for someone else. (4) Get a mentor. Or a translator. Or at least ask people different from you how best to say things or send things. Ask, “If I were to launch this, how might it land?”

As a practical matter, if I want something from someone it’s best to approach them however works best for them. And it never works well to project my expectations on others without their consent. Looks like I’m being asked to be open-minded and considerate of others, again!

I don’t know what’s best

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that, Supreme Court Justice.

“You don’t know what’s best for you.” Rick said that, guy I once knew trying to teach me something.

Here’s me in my head: “I know what that person should do and what that person should say. I know how things should be, and shouldn’t be, and how everyone should just chill out and listen to me.” Or something happens that I’m sure is a terrible thing. “I told you this was gonna be terrible,” I can hear myself saying. And then it isn’t.

Always thinking that I know best gets in the way of stuff. Getting along with each other is a lot easier when we are humble. Innovation and creativity happen when we are humble. When I let go of my righteousness and trust my fellow humans, things tend to work out. Often, things work out better than I could have imagined.

Mad as hell AND want to talk

I am furious at President Trump. In my opinion he has done tremendous damage to our country. He urges Americans to be mean to other Americans. I think he is unpatriotic and has put our national security at risk. I’m furious that he is further compromising our national security by resisting a peaceful transfer of power.

And at the same time I am willing to talk with and show respect to a Trump supporter. I know you have your reasons for supporting him. I want to learn about that. I bet we have stuff in common. I want us to at least talk.

It’s okay to not approve of someone’s behavior yet not walk away. It’s like two people living together, mad as hell at each other, and still come to the same kitchen table. And at least try to get along.

Here’s an NBC News article: Post-election calls for unity are toxic positivity that ignores damage Trump’s done. Author Tonya Russell breaks down the Trump damage to people like her and she’s angry at people like me who want us all to get along with each other.

“You have no idea,” she basically says to a guy like me. “Me and my people are kicked and dying because of this Trump guy and his supporters. You want me to what? Don’t you dare try to get me to be nice to them.” The quotes are my paraphrases. I hope I got it right. Please read her own words and stories here. This is a great article.

I think Tonya Russell is rightfully furious. I get that people are done with talking. I get that people want to be warriors right now. And that’s all okay with me. It’s not for me to say that anyone shouldn’t follow their heart.

But those whose hearts are torn or those who have not yet enlisted in the fight; let’s talk in spite of our differences. Let’s stay at the table even if it’s hard.

Some are called to aggression and some are called to diplomacy. Some are being peacemakers and some are being warriors. And it’s okay to be both; sometimes one and sometimes the other. Both are needed, and every kind of effort in between. It’s okay to be mad as hell AND want to talk.

I just have to say one more thing and that is to check my privilege. Tonya Russell also writes, “These sentiments [like mine calling for harmony] are clearly coming from people whose ability to live comfortably in the United States doesn’t hinge on the outcome.” That’s an actual quote and I believe she’s right about that too. Things like this are easy for me to say.

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