Lost in Translation? A great phrase. It means that words, once translated, can lose the original intent of their meaning. Or for those who loved the movie, it is the name of the insightful and curiosity-piquing film by Sofia Coppola released over a decade ago. Either way, people, we have something to talk about. We’re missing something in our communication.
In the movie, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson play mismatched souls who keep running into each other then begin a fledgling relationship. Two different generations reach across the great communication divide to create meaning. YES! Oh, but wait, must it only happen in the movies? NO! Lest we get too excited, we must realize we do have issues when the generational communication wall is scaled.
It’s like we are talking in tongues thinking another generation understands our point of view. We’re losing meaning in our communication because we don’t have the same meanings to start with! Meaning is established by shared experience. And, duh, we don’t share the same experiences, growing up in very different times. End game? Concepts are getting lost in translation. We need to gen up (gather as much as information as we can) about the generations.
4 Concepts That Get Lost in Translation
1) What Does Respect Mean?
The generational communication workshops I’ve conducted since 2007 tells me for older generations, it is about being acknowledged for status or effort. For the younger generations it is about having their point of view understood without judgment. We’re a little off here!
In older generations, it could be grounds for dismissal. For younger generations, highly influenced by the gaming culture, it’s a learning opportunity. “What’s the big deal?” Oh, yeah, we have issues.
“You have to earn my trust!” versus “Don’t you trust your own judgment…YOU hired me to do this job, now let me do it!” Ouch.
4) Communication Choices
Why do Millennials choose texting and email over other communication vehicles? One answer sums it up — “Text and email give me time to compose my thoughts. I can see the content. It gives me time to respond versus just react.” Wow, that blows what we might have been thinking right out of the water.
Given my deep-seeded desire to illuminate generational thinking in an effort to enhance workplace communication, I am on a mission to rid ourselves of preconceived ideas and monitor our own personal bias as we communicate across the generations. Here are my suggestions:
3 Things You Can Do to Get Your Message Understood
1) You cannot think that everyone thinks like you.
Now say this three times, memorize the mantra then create a post-it for your computer. Everyone does not think like I do. Get it? You are judging people as if they were YOU. I know you know this theoretically — but you may not be getting it emotionally. Just keep saying it. The old adage “Fake it ‘til you make it” applies here. Resist the urge to add “ – and the world would be better off if everyone did think like me.”
2) Don’t just walk away! Try again.
When you see that look in the person’s eyes that they really do not know where you are coming from when you communicate (or even worse, delegate), don’t just walk away! Try again. I know we are in an era where time seems more valuable than gold but we must make a decision. Do you want to connect the first time or do it over and over again trying to get it right when your expectations aren’t met? Make the investment.
3) Tailor your message to the folks you are talking to.
After all, they do not think like you do so you must translate your thoughts into their lingo. What does this look like in real life?
- Use visual examples, modify those dry and boring BabyBoomer PowerPoints into something interactive and entertaining if you really want to connect with the younger audience. (We do that for clients a lot!).
- Use verbal examples that reference experiences that your audience can relate to and not just that you can relate to.
- Use words that resonate with each generation. You can find our more on that front from my May 20, 2013 article, 4 Communication Tips to Open Your Mind & Strengthen Your Vocabulary.
Look. This translation stuff is tricky. We think we are communicating because what we say makes sense to us. In our fast-paced environments where we throw instructions like whiffle balls as we run down hallways, we are not only striking out but we are whiffing big time. A lot of energy spent with not enough return.
We are missing a handful of key communication concepts about the sender, the receiver and the message. It’s Communications 101 with a generational twist. Let’s be aware of the hazards of generational miscommunication and make a commitment to translate our concepts well as we send our message by keeping the generations of our receivers in mind. -Sherri Petro