Talking to lovely grandparents, they were asking if I thought it strange how teens are so public, for example posting comments about crude behavior….  On the one hand I do find it strange.  Looking @ what videos are popular on myspace — why would someone post a video of drinking at a party… and why would 7 million people watch it?  On the other, isn’t this what teens have done for time immemorial?  In the “Grease days” it was “tell me more, tell me more, did you get very far?” (dan nah na na nah na nan nah.)  Now instead of bragging at the diner it’s posting a vid from your phone.

And yes, it’s much more public, but that’s one of the key differences for this generation – their connections are broad and thin vs narrow and deep.  Today it’s 500 “virtual friends” versus last century’s 5 “real world friends.”

“But those aren’t real friends,” says Grandma.  For you, they wouldn’t be – but for your grandson they are.  As “old people” we have a different definition, a different concept of connection.  Feeling connected is a primal – maybe even THE primal need; it appears we’ve accidentally changed the way people experience that connectedness.

This has profound implications at work.

Was talking to “Alia,” a 20-something who was frustrated that her bosses don’t “get” her and her generation.  “They think if we’re online we’re wasting time, but that’s how we network.  I spend hours online linking people to know about the company.”

Managers often tell me that the young generation is not motivated.  Au contraire – as we see with Alia, they are highly motivated… but motivated to their own approach.  Just ’cause us oldsters can’t engage that motivation doesn’t mean it isn’t there – it means we aren’t crossing the gap.  Affinity is like a tidal force, there’s little that’s as motivating.  In the recent past, affinity was to a company and a team and a place.  Now it’s squashed flat and spread wide.

Back to the grandparents, they were anxious how much time the boy spent on Facebook, and I asked if they had a fb page.  “No, we didn’t want to give in.”  Give in??  There is a gap!

I encouraged them to make one that night and invite their grandson as a “friend.”  Not because it’s fun for them to hang out on fb, but as a vehicle for creating common ground.  It’s only when we’re willing to make that common ground and step into the circle that we have a chance of connecting with, influencing, and engaging those on the other side of the gap.

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Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.
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