Mind the gap — cross the generational divide

Conflict or collaboration? Are those our choices when it comes to understanding relationships with other generations? Gen X and Gen Y have heard the labels:

  • Lazy.

  • Entitled.

  • Illiterate.

  • Distracted by shiny objects.

Our WiseTribe community also has a reputation. Tell me if this sounds familiar, WiseTribers:

  • Technophobic.

  • Set in our ways.

  • Boooooooooring.

  • Exclusive.

Negative stereotypes abound. And they go both ways. How do we overcome such challenging perceptions? And can we overcome the very real issues that sometimes separate different generations?

WiseTribe is a community for persons 50+ that want to give more to — and get more from — life. This includes looking at how we relate to other generations. Although primarily focused on helping people 50+ grow into their newfound longevity, we cannot deny our interdependence on younger generations.

As WiseTribe member Deb Talbot put it: “I want to be around folks who challenge me and keep me from the ruts that threaten to limit life when comfort and safety loom too important. I don’t want a closed loop of wise elders eldering other wise elders. On the other hand, we want affinity with those we consider our tribe.”

Deb is not alone. 75% of WiseTribe members said the most important benefit of an intergenerational community is that it provides access to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Involving younger generations has appeal, to be sure. But how? We have not yet begun to incorporate intergenerational conversations in our community.

Get past filters

Intergenerational relationships, although often natural within families, are not always easy in other areas of society. Another WiseTribe member, Eileen Cummings, put it this way: “Mentoring works brilliantly in a business climate. Socially, it’s much more complicated. We want to be uplifting; we don’t want to shock. Both sides have their filters working overtime. We reserve our true feelings for those who have been through similar experiences. They save theirs for friends who are not going to pass judgment.”

Initially, it can be hard to get past assumptions that lead us to put up filters when we’re out of our relational comfort zone. Sometimes, creating the right environment can help us get past that natural protective instinct.

Break down barriers with the right motivation

WiseTriber Helen Polise explains: “Having a reason to connect takes the pressure off and makes it more comfortable to ease into deeper discussions and make stronger connections. I suggest an event like a wine-tasting where the mission is to learn about wines, but the event can turn into a more meaningful discussion once everyone is relaxed and comfortable with each other. Any type of class where we are led by a teacher or speaker diverts the immediate pressure of having to connect, which will happen once everyone’s guard is down and we are all in it together having fun.”

Learn how to connect

Get to know the five values WiseTribers practice when crossing the intergenerational divide.

Elizabeth Kays is a passionate storyteller with a background in science and a deep love for all things intercultural and intergenerational. She graduated with a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Oxford, deepening her understanding of both science and culture. Elizabeth has also worked with millennials for more than 10 years, helping them discover their communication and leadership talents. She’s more than a little bit nerdy and loves cooking, writing, speaking, and watching cheesy sci-fi. Follow her on Twitter (@LizKays) and on Tumblr.

Check out our blog for more articles on building intergenerational relationships and other initiatives driven by the members of WiseTribe. Join us to contribute your ideas!

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