It happens online and in person. You are engaged with someone in a discussion, but when you leave the conversation, you feel you didn’t get your point across to them.
One key step in effective communication is understanding generational intelligence, says Amy Hays, adult education manager with the Noble Research Institute. She says generational intelligence helps us understand how people in any generation learn and make decisions.
“Individuals in different generations think and take action differently,” Hays says. “This isn’t about their age; it’s how they operate.”
An example of how different generations interact is currently being illustrated within agriculture. Hays says generational intelligence is important at this time because of the pending land transfer that will predominantly occur from grandparents to grandchildren. The land transfer will skip a generation due to the overall size of the groups. Baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) and Generation Y (born 1979 to 2004) are larger generations than the generation between them—Generation X (born 1965 to 1984).
In general, Hays says each generation carries a different outlook and mentality in approaching situations. A generation’s cultural ethos and outlook affect how people think, act and learn, and she provides the following overviews of each generation:
The Greatest Generation (born before 1946) might be summarized as “together we can.”
Baby boomers have the mentality of the individual. Their perspective is very individualized. Think “you matter”—not a selfish you but a focus on individual recognition.
People in Gen X approach things as if “whatever you want to do, you better prove it.” They grew up in an information age and might ask to be shown data as support.
Millennials (born 1979 to 2004) are the first generation that grew up globally connected. They appreciate that things happen in the U.S. and affect people elsewhere. You have to answer why it matters for them to buy in, and this generation sees the big picture.
As a professional in the industry, you are probably often compelled or asked to provide answers regarding the science and technology of agriculture. With only 2% of the U.S. population being farmers, those conversations, as an individual or a group and online or in person, can often get sidetracked by a lack of understanding of farm practices.
To provide a blueprint for successful ag communications, consultant and scientist Tim Pastoor developed the ABC approach—awareness, bridging and content.
First, awareness allows you to assess the situation and whether the person with which you are engaging has a similar position or an adversarial position. After you identify the person’s position, you can use a statement to bridge into something that is more helpful. And for content, he admits that as a scientist himself, he immediately starts to talk about facts, but after you recognize who you are talking to and how to address that person’s question, you’ll be able to generate a more positive experience.
Everyone will fall on a spectrum from being adversarial to being supportive to your position. After you’ve identified where someone falls on that line, you can use bridge statements accordingly and move on to content.
“In addition to thinking if someone is supportive or adversarial, think about it from their generational perspective as well,” Pastoor adds.