Millennials were raised around e-mail: texting, tweeting and sharing are intertwined into everything they do. I’m not saying Gen X’ers don’t post things to their Facebook walls, but I’ve observed that Millenials tend to share a lot … a whole lot more. That’s just the world they have adapted to.
This has led to a different understanding of nonverbal communication than previous generations. Interpreting tone of voice, pauses, in-person nonverbal cues are all things that Millennials view very differently.
By missing these expressive behaviors, Millennials may lack the skills necessary for interpreting feelings, attitudes, reactions and judgments. This is more damaging in cross-cultural circumstances, too, which are more significant in today’s global economy.
One example is the change to having mobile devices at meetings where there used to be nothing but a pencil and legal pad. Millennials see this as an advantage and use the Internet, e-mail and Twitter during meetings to capture notes, find information that may be helpful to the conversation, and more. Gen X’ers, who aren’t used to this technology, may perceive these actions as rude. Millennials act on what they know and the fact is, they may be better equipped for the meeting.
As employers and managers, we can provide teachable moments and training early on in what we might term “holistic” communication skill development.