by Afton Rorvik
I have loved working with “younger folk” in an office setting. They dazzle me with their tech skills. And their social media savvy awes me. Online anything seems to feel intuitive to them. Not so much for me.
In a particular office setting years ago, I worked with several twenty-somethings who loved to communicate with an instant messaging tool even though we all sat in the same large room together. Almost once a day, I would look up to find one of them standing next to me: “Did you see what I messaged you?” I dutifully pulled up the message, thinking to myself, “We could have had a conversation about this in the same amount of time. Face-to-face.”
As I continued my quest to work well with these younger coworkers, I quickly discovered that they did not share my love of face-to-face conversations or email, particularly long emails. If I emailed them, I often heard nothing in return, or received a short reply via instant messaging.
Good people. Smart people. All of us. But clearly we did not have the same expectations for communication.
I began to ask people throughout our small company, “How do you communicate best?” And I began to tell them how I communicate best. I knew that we wouldn’t accomplish much unless we learned how to talk to each other.
I did eventually learn to use (and even enjoy) instant messaging, and my younger colleagues learned to use email and have face-to-face conversations.
And I learned the value of asking and answering the question: “How do you communicate best?”
I don’t want to miss out on the wisdom a younger generation can offer me. And I don’t want to miss out on the opportunities I have to speak wisdom into their lives.
So . . . how do we “older folk” stay relevant in our communication, something at the heart of building any relationship?
In 1 Corinthians 14, we read Paul’s challenge to the church at Corinth regarding praying in tongues.
Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle?
So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? (1 Corinthians 14:6-12, MSG)
Paul’s wise words still offer wisdom for our world as we seek to communicate across generations. If we “older types” use communication tools a younger generation doesn’t like or understand, we risk missing opportunities to connect with them. And by not understanding and appreciating our go-to communication tools, the “younger set” risks missing out on meaningful dialogue with us.
What if we made it a point to ask and answer this key relationship-building question: “How do you communicate best?”
If we want to live connected and share the love of Jesus with a world full of people of all ages, stages, languages, and ethnicities, we must start with thoughtful, relevant communication.
Per Gen contributor Afton Rorvik writes about living connected, something that matters deeply to her even as an introvert. In her book Storm Sisters, she talks about the power of friendship in hard times. Afton and her husband John have two adult children and love to walk and hike in Colorado. You can connect with Afton through her monthly newsletter, on Facebook, or on her website.