Why Millennials Can’t Communicate

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Here’s why Millennials can’t communicate:

Cathryn Sloane, a recent University of Iowa grad, has found herself in the middle of a social media controversy. In essence, she argues that the only people that understand how to use social media and online communication tools are under the age of 25. I’m saddened by her article, and the responses she has received. Here’s why:

I’m passionate about helping people to tell their stories in ways that are authentic and compelling. My business is the business of persuasion. I’m not persuaded to give up on the Millennial generation, or any generation, when it comes time to make a real connection. We all have stories to tell, and we owe it to one another to learn how to effectively deliver a message.  However, as the self-appointed spokesperson for her generation of social media wizards Millennials, Cathryn hasn’t done herself any favors.

Every generation has communication challenges. So does every gender, every political party, every corporate executive – even national champions. No one is immune from the need to consider how others will react to the message.

For many Millennials, the ability to communicate effectively (without a keyboard) is an elusive skill. Cathryn’s rant does nothing to reverse this reputation, and the fact that she somehow managed to get her story onto a national platform has created an outpouring of “please shut up” where do you get off? who appointed you queen of the twitterverse? varied sentiments.

For a fresh perspective on Gen Y communication and leadership, I highly recommend a visit with the Millennial CEO.

Yet, I believe in the Millennial generation. In fact, when I won the national elevator pitch championship in the ‘118’ competition, my message focused on helping these young leaders in a difficult economy.  (If you’d like to see that video, it’s located right here).  My feelings haven’t changed, and neither has my commitment to the leaders of tomorrow. And that’s not hyperbole – that’s a fact.

Poor communication is not generation-specific. Each of us, in spite of our age, skin color, sexual preference, shoe size, or stature has a communication issue.

The challenge?

Creating a story that gets others engaged, with a message that says, “Tell me more…”

Having access to social media doesn’t make you an expert on the subject. Nor does your age. Or gender.  Check out the comments, from the NextGen article – here are a couple of people I really respect, weighing in on the latest social media misstep:
Shelly DeMotte Kramer Comments on NextGen

Cathryn got engagement, but not the kind of positive dialogue that leads to anything. Except, maybe, dropping her twitter account?
Tim McDonald - Huffington Post, comments on NextGen

Before you turn on the fire hose of “what your generation deserves”, why not consider what you can do for others? A self-serving rant does nothing to create a connection, or challenge the status quo in a meaningful way.

We owe it to ourselves to understand how to cross cultural boundaries, and deliver a message that fits for our listener. Proclaiming one generation as superior is naive and shortsighted. No one has cornered the market on social media; after all, it’s simply a tool for communication.

One day, perhaps we will set aside our age differences and other prejudices and understand that effective communication requires one thing from all generations:

Considering your listener. Without that consideration, Millennials can’t communicate. Neither can anyone else.
When you make the second person first, your message becomes more meaningful.

Celebrating the self-serving misplaced over-rated differences of your generation, gender, organization or ethnic background is simply a form of prejudice.  Is that prejudice the reason why Millennials can’t communicate?


  • How can you create a message that is persuasive for multiple generations?
  • What have you done to reach beyond the boundaries of your generation?

It would be a sad day indeed if we were only equipped to talk to people who are within a select age demographic – even if they are the true experts of social media! 🙂

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Chris
Chris
US National Elevator Pitch Champion. Keynote speaker. Author. Business coach for Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurs and high-growth organizations. Married with two daughters, based in Houston, Texas USA.
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