Generational Communications

I have taken notice lately of a trend, or actually maybe more of a tendency, of younger people (not just designers) relying more and more upon email for communications with others. At my perticular place of employment, I am sort of a “middle ground” in terms of age and I use both email and phone calls to conduct my business (communicating with customers, sales people, vendors, and co workers). What I have noticed is that the older folks (35 and above) that I deal with on a reguler basis use the phone more (even when an email would be best) while the younger people (27 and below) lean on email more (even when a phone call would be better).

I don’t know that I have many real guidelines for how I decide whether to make a more personal phone call or to write a much more impersonal email, but one of them is that when I need to communicate hard data (such as prices, dimensions or other sepecifications) I like to use email so that the information is clear and can be referenced to later (aka CYA paper trail). At times when a vendor is not producing to expectations or when I haven’t heard from a customer in a while, I tend to pick up the phone to try and establish the “emotional” connection.

As many people do, I consider my way of doing things to be the best and it frustrates me when I get phone calls from older folks who want to transmit a laundry-list of data that I then have to scratch down on scrap paper that is only too easily lost later on. Or, when a vendor really needs to be chewed out and instead of the hammer being laid down verbally, I hear the clicking and tapping of one of the younger folks typing an email that is only too easily ignored, forgotten about, etc.

Anybody else notice this or have a different take? In spite of the frustration decsribed above, I am actually fascinated by the difference that these two generations have in the way they do things. I don’t think it’s just a “potato / patato” thing - I suspect there is a larger cultural / phychological shift happening… but that’s just my theory.

I agree with you, the trend is for younger people to use more “impersonal” communication tools. But I would also say this trend has been going on for hundreds of years. Have you ever read vintage letters? I have read stuff from “uneducated” soldiers from the Civil War that makes my command of the English language laughable. I’m sure things changed with the phone as they have with the internet.

What I think is most important to know is communications is much more than words. As a sketch can communicate things words can’t, so can tone of voice and body language. Emoticons don’t count.

I am definately old school. I prefer to meet in person as a first choice. Phone call is second but usually in conjunction with a follow-up email that has “As we discussed …” in the email. Obviously data should be transmitted in a written (email) form because there is a need for precision.

If someone uses SMS with me, they will be fired.

I’m with you there. I’m right in the middle of that window, too. I see younger people afraid to pick up a phone to ask someone a question. However, I share your frustration with long unnecessary phone calls. In particular when an “older” co-worker just picks up the phone to call a client/vendor without getting all the information together to make that call. Then the conversations take 3 times as long as they need to, wasting everyone’s time.

Could be a midwestern thing, too.

Yeah, if I get anything in SMS form, I don’t even bother trying to translate it - “Delete”! I also agree that reading things that were written 150+ years ago and comparing that to what is commonly churned out today is quite a shock!

Another thing I’ve noticed, that drives me absolutely nuts, is how the kids 23 and under use the word “like” at least five times per minute of conversation. At first I theorized that it’s an intellectual laziness - that people don’t bother to take the time to formulate a complete and well structured thought before speaking. But now I wonder if it could possibly be that in this day and age of ever increasing information speed, our speech centers can’t keep up with our idea flow and we are starting to see stall tactics (such as using “like” every three words) in order to buy enough time to get the thoughts translated into verbal speech.

Which then leads me to wonder, are we seeing the limits of what we can do with verbal speech? What are the alternatives?

I work for the big Australian telecommunications company. The genius of SMS is in how it lets you avoid communicating on somebody elses terms. If you want to avoid a conversation, you can text or email or take the incoming call waiting or always let your phone go to message.

If you’ve grown up with these, you’d expect most people would get used to taking the easy option- caller ID says it’s my boss, I won’t answer it and let her leave a message and perhaps reply later by SMS so it looks like I’m trying to get back in touch but in reality I’m doing everything I can to avoid her.

It also works the other way, why can’t I be sent the data in the format I require (5 seconds work on their part) rather than trying to decipher and transcribe the random stream-of-consciousnesss ramblings I get with a phone call?

My pet hate is Microsoft Office Communicator. Not only am I trying to do work, but I am brought into ridiculous phone/ net-meetings for hours at a time by people who think having a meeting to talk about work is actual work, and then more stupid text-speak requests come through on Communicator from the very people I am talking to in the meeting I don’t need to be in.

My experience, everyone here in Canada seems to prefer email. I even get a lot from 50 somethings.

In my mind, I use email when I need a list of info, a paper trail or the subject isn’t urgent. If I’m waiting on samples to have an order placed, I’ll be on the phone chasing someone down. That’s my attitude at work.

In my personal life, I call people when I want to communicate that I feel strongly about something. Anyone can tap a sentence off in email and hit send. Someone has to burn calories to find a phone number, dial, wait and talk to a real live person! This is why I never write emails to congressmen or senators. I figure they won’t even bother to read it.

Lastly, for skyarrow, here’s a song about “like”. Words like, “Like” or “well” and sounds like “er” or “uh” are used in speech because it gives us a pause to structure our thoughts without the embarrassment of being silent. Really, we should encourage people to feel comfortable not saying anything until they get their thoughts straight.

Well it stumbles and it falls off of almost every tongue
Give a listen and you’ll hear
It’s workin like a landmine in almost every sentence
It’s an assault to my mind’s ear

Yeah it might have started back with Jack Kerouac
Probably more than likely it was Maynard G. Krebs
It’s the 4 letter word that used to mean ‘as if’
And the meaning’s covered in cobwebs

Used to be a preposition then it was a conjunction
Now it’s used as an audible pause
Oh I hate it when I hear it especially when I see it
Gotta stamp it out there ought to be some laws

College boys valley girls mall rats grandmammas
Everybody’s misusin that word
I heard it four times in one poor little sentence
It was the saddest sound I ever have heard

I suppose you could blame it on my generation
Chickens from the 60s finally comin into roost
I’ve been sayin it myself for over 30 years now
Just to give my cool quota just a little bitty kind of a boost

But when I hear it
I can’t stand it
Especially coming out of the mouths of one of my own kids

It’s been taught and, God,
What have we wrought?
Give a listen here, what do we dig?

I prefer ah or er
You can rest assured
If you’re sayin what you mean then it don’t mean a thing
It’s just an ugly little 4 letter word

Doesn’t anybody care or am I the only one?
Am I just stuck back in some kind of a past?
Maybe it’s harmless but it feels like a virus
And it sounds like it’s catchin on fast

But you end up having to use those words because some people, especially aggressive, forceful talkers take any pause in conversation as their opportunity to speak again. So if you’re a person like me who isn’t a loud talker, I definitely need some stall tactics because I think about things before I say them. Bad things happen when I don’t. But in face to face convo, if I pause with dead silence while I formulate my thoughts, different types of people will jump all over it. I’ve found a good technique is to take that time completely in the beginning of my answer, possibly restate what they said, pretty much as the stall time to get my answer together. But you definitely can’t do it in the middle of your sentence or you’ll get interrupted.

Mr-914,
That is some good stuff! Me likey…

Skinny,
I hear ya on the need to keep the blowhards at bay. In my job a have to interact with a variety of personality types and I am usually pretty good at adapeting to all of them. When I get into a chat with the “Type-A” people, I tend to just let them run with the line until they finally paint themselves into a corner at which point I chime in with whatever it is that I have been so meticulously crafting in my head. I’ve found that people like that enjoy thinking that they are “in charge”, but will almost always listen to someone who, while not saying much, makes it count when they do.

Of course each situation is different so that little technique may not be of much help to anyone else.

One of the things I believe I might have been working towards in my original post is highlighted by sanjyoo9 - it almost seems that the new crop of kids in teh workforce are “afraid” of the phone call and defer to electronic communication (email, text message) as a way to buffer a potentially unpleasant conversation.

Sometimes they don’t even wait! I have some French in my family, and I honestly think they believe it’s not a good conversation if they don’t interrupt each other when they discuss anything. A cultural difference for sure, and one that doesn’t go over well in America

as far as electronic vs. speaking with someone, for me, a lot of times it’s easier to set up a meeting or pass along some numbers or info via email/SMS. Why call someone when you can just text them “on your way” or agree to a meeting time via email. Some people seem to feel strongly against that though

On the other hand, talking in person can sort out a week long email tangle in minutes and convey a lot more than just words with just your voice. I think there’s a balance that you get with a little work experience - how to use each way to your advantage and what fits with your own personality. Maybe in some people that skill is underdeveloped?

Overall, I think it boils down to using what makes you more or less effective the way you communicate and/or fits with the personalities involved. I know I feel different about a series of faceless emails vs a call from a colleague every once and a while

Overall, I think it boils down to using what makes you more or less effective the way you communicate

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