We’ve all heard countless remarks about millennials, generally along the lines of our laziness, need for instant gratification, lack of attention, and the list goes on. While I can certainly attest to possessing some of these character traits and seeing them in my peers, I can also say with confidence that the vast majority of these claims are quite unfounded in my circle. Granted, I have the pleasure of interacting with the top talent in my school and work, but I would still say that there is far too much “millennials are afraid of hard work” talk than necessary.
I have little interest in examining the claims and looking into the details of the numerous studies on our generation. Instead, I’d like to share the information published about previous generations and point out some rather striking similarities.
My mother gave me a 1967 issue of the magazine Glamour College for Christmas this past year. As I was reading through (and drooling over the mod 60s style), I was particularly struck by this passage from the article "On Becoming 18." I find it so valuable, in fact, that I will share it in its entirety here:
Is your generation any different than generations past? Some people think so. Some people are quick to brand and to criticize the "younger generation" as decadent and irresponsible. It will take courage for you to keep your cool when faced with people who think all youth today is wild, irresponsible and a discredit to the nation. But remember, you're not the first generation to be criticized. On an Egyptian tomb, 6000 years old, there is this inscription: "We live in a decadent age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They inhabit taverns and have no self-control." Have things really changed so much?
Now remember, this was written in 1967! Aside from the fact that each generation is convinced that the proceeding generation will utterly fail, I’d like to comment on the etiquette and relevance of such discussions. It is generally unacceptable to make sweeping, negative generalizations about an entire group of people. We tend to think of race or religion in this context, but I propose that using a generation to group people also qualifies as an unfair way to make a judgement about someone. Why should we be asked to defend ourselves and our peers when assumptions are cast on us? As I mentioned earlier, there is certainly validity to some claims, however, it puts others in an uncomfortable and defensive position. Like I have written about before, the whole purpose of etiquette is to put the other person at ease.
I am not suggesting that controversial topics can never be discussed or that we must never have disagreements (just ask any of my friends or family if I like to have a good debate!). Rather, I am saying that criticizing a group of people and doing so with new acquaintances may not be the best idea. If you desire to have such a conversation let me suggest that you engage with people you have not just met and that you foster a sense of looking at the facts together, rather than asking someone to defend their generation. As Dale Carnegie teaches, a simple statement like “I may be wrong, I often am, let us examine the facts” can do wonders for promoting a collaborative and productive discussion.
What are your thoughts on the millennial generation? Do you agree with my assessment that there is a time and a place for such conversations, or do you think it’s always fair game?