Recently I attended a panel on Millennials at which the moderator posed the question to the audience, ”Can Perspective be taught?” “How?” She said she had no answer.
The answer seems fairly obvious to me – simple, but not easy: Make time both informally and organically as well as in periodic planned occasions to converse, dialogue, and share revealing stories among the generations to create understanding of why and how attitudes and behaviors were formed.
The younger generations don’t generally have the perspective to appreciate the positive changes the Boomers accomplished and what our society and business world was like before. We have to teach that better so they understand and are aware of what they could stand to lose.
It’s not just about younger people learning from older and more experienced colleagues. Equally important is the reverse – that older, longer tenured colleagues and stakeholders learn perspective from the younger ones. I am referring to the value of understanding how different people see the world, what they view as new markets and skills for the future, and what it looks like to them to never know what things were like before.
This cross-generational conversation lays the foundation for more understanding, empathy and working out solutions together rather than holding on to rigid opinions that criticize without possibility of useful solutions.
One reason I find the negative things I hear about one generation or another frustrating is that often behavior that’s criticized became a habit because no one told the “perpetrator” what’s wrong with it and why. That is not something that should be left to shaming on social media, an action that doesn’t solve anything.
When I pointed out after the panel discussion that cross-generational conversation can make a significant difference, the moderator who raised the question of whether perspective can be taught responded that the young people (in this case) might listen but they don’t change their behavior. Well, that’s not been my experience if the conversation is carried on with a non-judgmental tone.
Here are 5 Tips for Teaching Perspective:
- Check your attitude. Refrain from being judgmental.
- Use a neutral tone of voice. Don’t lecture. Assume a friendly demeanor and an open mind for discussion.
- Explain in the context of a conversation you are having. Be concrete. Tell a story with a meaningful outcome.
- Don’t be defensive if there is pushback. Explain that you want to better understand each other.
- If the learning doesn’t appear to be happening, try again later with another story or approach.
It may take a few repetitions and illustrative stories, but gradually it sticks. If not, the individual is just not open to learning, and that can be manifest at any age.
The alternative is continued frustration and less than optimum productivity or performance. Let’s face it, those are the people you have to work with. So unless you get off on just being able to claim you are right…give the conversation a try.
Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences. How do you deal with teaching perspective?
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com