Note: to be 100% transparent, I am not sure why I wanted to write this blog, or even that I agree with it.
Some of the Danaqa ID consultancy work that we do that we enjoy the most is facilitating meetings and processes. It is something that we enjoy because enabling good conversation and learning is… good. The key things that we try to remember whilst doing this is to create an environment where everyone is comfortable communicating. This can be a difficult process that normally involves icebreakers, fun games and a lot of effort to make sure that no one feels embarrassed or uncomfortable to speak up. The key is to provide all participants of a meeting or process with confidence.
When talking to participants about this at a recent workshop, the ability of “young people” to communicate came up. The participants talked about how it was unnatural that groups of teenagers could sit in a car together texting each other. That this is awful communication.
My Theory: Young people are actually good communicators. Or at least as good we were.
My guess would be that old people have bemoaned young people’s poor communication skills for a long time. Our grandparents probably bemoaned our parents “constant speaking over telephones”. Telegrams almost certainly ruined the romance of the written letter. The complaint about young people today is that they are always on their mobiles texting, whatsapping each other, not really communicating.
It strikes me that young people spend infinitely more time communicating with each other than I ever did with my friends. It is a different form of communication, but it is still valid. It is also a form of communication that allows people who may be shy or reserved to shine. There is a phenomena of being “online funny”. The idea of people being boring in person and fun in their social media persona. This is seen as being illegitimate. Presumably there have always been these types of people. People who have a great sense of humour, but lack the confidence to speak up. I would guess that in the past the funniest of these people became authors, columists or humourists. All of those people were not always the most gregarious and outgoing people “in real life”. Now, everyone has the chance to be “online funny”.
I don’t think young people are worse at communicating than in the past. Sometimes you meet a 14 year old and they are a bit awkward, struggle to make eye contact and give short answers to open questions. I think this is probably how a lot of 14 year olds have always been. The fact that the same 14 year old can take time to be funny, open and humorous over a safer online environment is good. This safe space (safe from the perspective of the user) may even help to build confidence, which in my experience is how you create better “real” communication.
What do you think?