More Mature than Your Years? 5 Ways to Connect with Millenials
Original question on Quora: Why do I find it so hard to communicate and be friends with millennials?
Here’s what I’ve experienced and understood:
I’ve always had the same issue.
This is me when I was a senior in high school. This picture was taken during a 3-day band conference where we get to collaborate with different high school bands across Asia, there was even a famous guest director who is pictured here. The director was 35+ years old. I connected with him easily over our music and as I was also the band lead both regionally and at my school. In both situations, I’m already closer to the 35+ year old than my classmates.
See how much I struggled being a teenager ? Yikes. I really had to find ways to connect with my age group or else I would’ve been outtcasted. Thank goodness I learned quickly.
Now, I’m twenty something but people say I look like I’m 18 but act and talk like I’m 50. Colleagues say this, CEOs I meet on the plane say this. What’s worse if if I wear gym gear without makeup, apparently I look like I’m 13.
Anyway. Here’s the story :
What usually happens is I go deep into conversations with those who are older because I love learning from them, understanding what they’ve gone through and applying it to my life. Yes, we don’t talk about the newest fads and latest trends but we also don’t talk about what millennials are going through. The conversation usually steers towards their work and family. Try noticing what topics you and your older friends talk about
Why you don’t really vibe with those of your age
Firstly, it’s because you don’t necessarily learn much from them. Yes, I’m a learner and a sponge learn from everyone and everything around me. I’m guessing if you analyze the “value “ of talking to an experienced 45 year old vs a 21 year old, you’d pick the 45 year old any day. You can learn from his/her stories and challenges and somehow prepare yourself to face those challenges in the future. Or at least understand them first. However, in doing so, we somehow put ourselves “above” the 20 something year olds just because we can’t learn from them. But ultimately you can, you can learn from anyone, and it’s also a learning process by itself, trying to find a way to vibe with those in your twenties as well. In the end, I believe we shouldn’t pick and choose, we should challenge ourselves to expand our networks.
So then, it’s not that you don’t have things in common with them, it’s because you haven’t identified what exactly it is that you have in common with them. That’s why you can’t talk about them. They face these challenges as you, but they just “cover it up” with the same trending stories. Try and dig deeper.
The number one rule is FORD or family, occupation, relationship, and dreams. You can first understand those aspects of those millennial. Do not focus on what you can “take”from learning about those aspects of their life, but understand and the process of building rapport with them instead.
Then, you can dig deeper into common challenges that both of you may face 1) how to gain respect from older colleagues at work since you might always feel they think you’re too young. Or your clients might think you’re too young. 2) how to balance relationships, family, and work? 3) how to find a dream job, or something you’re passionate about and try to integrate that with your career? 4) when do they want to start a family?
There’s loads of topics, you just have to understand this age group and also have self awareness in what you’re going through in life. Then you can understand their own tactics and how they handle these global challenges that millennial face. This way, you can also fulfill your goal of “learning” from them.
The main trend you’ll find is those of our age group usually steers towards the “fun stuff” to talk about or “lighter topics” because to them/us, life is already a bit challenging – what we were taught growing up ( eg. the American dream or make your passion your work!) Doesn’t necessarily match up with the reality of life. So, you’ll see that they will constantly steer towards the fun trends, kardashians, new hacks, gossip, or anything in between. Just understand that it’s not because they’re obsessed about these topics. It’s because they want to avoid the real life talks. But, you have a choice to steer towards the meaningful conversations. Maybe it’s also a tactic to go deep and then light throughout the conversation you’re having with another millennial. It’s quite fun once you start experimenting but the best part is you still get something out of the conversation, which are the aspects of his/her life you want to learn about
P. S. another tactic I found is to pick someone who is good at something you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Identify that “gift”or “thing” that they own – eg. Makeup, fashion, health, social media , etc. “wow, you’ve always been super diligent on your eating and gym routine, can you tell me more about it?” or “your makeup is amazing, which one would you recommend for eyeliner? Okay and how do you put it on? How did you learn all of this?”
P.P.S try to understand where the high value millennials hang out. Make sure you meet people you want to meet in places we would actually expect them to be . Eg. If we want a good boyfriend/girlfriend, I don’t think we’d meet someone great at a club right? People who go to clubs to meet people would probably aim for the fun side of things. Instead, we’d want to meet them in a thought provoking environment whether it’s an outdoor activity (try MeetUp groups or friends of friend’s sports groups), networking events, toastmasters, or even an intimate mastermind group/book club/mentoring event. This way, you can ensure you’re meeting qualified individuals who have similar interests as you!
Comment below to share some conversation key points you’ve used and how it worked/didn’t work. Share the love!