Speak Slow and Succinctly, I’m a Millennial.

Speak Slow and Succinctly, I’m a Millennial.

By: Katherine Meyer
June 8, 2011

I read a very interesting post by Zack Whittaker about Millennials and how social media has impacted their communication styles a few weeks ago that I’m struggling to address. I’ve started to write this post about a hundred times, but now I’m just going for the gusto. Time to get off the proverbial fence and share my opinion.

Preface: I was born in 1983 so I’m a Millennial and some of the bad press we have gotten bothers me. When I saw Zack’s article I was happy to see  the primary portion of his article focuses on how social media has impacted the way we communicate.

One thing that is absolutely true is that texting and mediums like Twitter force us to whittle down to 140- or 160-character nuggets of wisdom, opinion, advice or humor. Seeing as OMG and LOL were added to the Oxford Dictionary this year, it’s hard to argue against the fact that these condensed forms communication haven’t changed the way we write and talk!

Zach also infers that young people actually read more often than some contend. And that’s certainly true. With the rise of gadgets like the Kindle, Nook and iPad people are more likely to read 3.3 times as many books. Americans in general are now more likely to read for pleasure than in years past.

My issue with this article was the suggestion that older people consider condensing written text into “shorter, easier-to-read fashion” as this may help get your point across in a “way that younger people will understand.” I don’t know about you – which is partially what inspired me to write this post, but I found this to be a bit demeaning to our generation.

  • A Decode study suggests that though we may be tech savvy, only a percentage (37% of men and 26% of women respectively) think employers should allow access to social media at work.
  • 50% of those 55-plus report using social media daily for business.
  • The largest users of Facebook (37%) are those being 45 years or older.

Bottom line – social media use is prevalent in across all age groups. Just because Millennials happen to be some of the earliest adopters of technology, I don’t think this defines either how we communicate or  how people should communicate with us.

Generally speaking, I think that our transition into a digital society has made the rate and way we exchange with one another to be much more hurried and abbreviated. I do think that what Millennials look for is to be communicated with as adults and with respect.

Many of us are in the early stages of our respective careers and, though we may be determined, we may occasionally be a little over eager and mistakenly think that digital tools can answers all our questions. But I think that’s more of an occasional occurrence than a norm.

Speaking from both personal experience and statistical evidence, the biggest thing Millennials typically look for in bosses or elders is quite simply someone to mentor us. In my experience, people who mentored me through my career have been invaluable.

Zack – I respect your opinion and though there is certainly value in being concise, I don’t think talking to Millennials as though you were Tweeting them will come off as anything but condescending.

What do you all think? Do you manage Millennials – if so what’s your experience? Does Zack’s recommendation hold water? Am I just being too sensitive because I’m reflecting on my own generation? Let me know your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Hire Velocity

  • Amen sister!

  • Amy

    I don’t ‘manage’ millenials but I’ve got three of them in my house right this minute and I couldn’t agree with you more, Katherine. My kids, 23 and 20, and their friends, may text and type fast – and they certainly talk fast! – but they are also deeply engaged in the world, in their coursework at college, in other people. And they are both looking for mentors. I was proud to help my daughter’s friend with a writing project – and her work was absolutely luminous (and long). I think that all the concern about millenials and the loss of communication skills is the same yakkity yak that all generations meet. I remind my contemporaries: Wasn’t rock music going to ruin the world? 

  • Thanks Liz – glad you liked the post!

  • I loved the article. And I agree that

  • New, just dropped by and read this post.
    I have a daughter 24, is she a millenial?
    I know that she uses media like iphone differently than me. texting etc.
    Trying to learn as I go and there is a lot to learn.

  • I agree that the idea you have to speak to us in short sentences is condescending.

    But, while Zack didn’t say this expressly, I got the impression that he’d agree that millennials like shorter correspondence because we don’t want to read bullshit.

  • Couldn’t agree more Katherine – there’s nothing that unique about millenials, the range of articulacy is the same as for any other generation. I work with a large team of millenial interns at one of my arts organisation clients and they’re very eloquent, in fact usually better at expressing their ideas than most of the older people I work with.
     On the other hand, we have an outdoor activities client whose customer base is a rather different group of (predominantly) millenials, and they do show a real preference for communicating in “text speak”. It’s just the same differences in preference and education that have been around forever – and definitely no reason to patronise a whole generation by using the lowest common denominator.

  • Hi Kate – I agree that how people communicate is reflective of their preference and education. Thanks for stopping by to comment! 

  • Hey Jim – This is a good point. I can see how Zack could have been hinting at this but I think if this is truly one of his points he would have said it directly. Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Katherine, great post, I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive at all. I do, however, think you nailed it with this line: “Generally speaking, I think that our transition into a digital society has made the rate and way we exchange with one another to be much more hurried and abbreviated.”

    I’m, um, slightly older than millennials but I think there’s been a broader change across all age groups. There’s more information available than ever and many people have less time to absorb it, so the ability to communicate concisely is critical regardless of the age of the audience.