A couple of days back, when discussing the importance of meditation, my teenager daughter said something which really shook me off my senses. She said that she does not like the word “OM”. So shocking it was to my ears that I asked whether she was joking, but firmly and confidently she replied that she was serious about it. I am not a religious fanatic, but to digest this was something beyond my capacity. Could I ever muster the courage to say something similar to my mother? No, not at all. This is what I call the generation gap. A buzz word these days, but really difficult to decipher the reasons behind it and even more difficult to implement the solutions to get rid of it or to be more practical to lessen it to a significant extent. A humble attempt to understand the different generations and to share some valuable solutions which if implemented, will make life smoother.
To simplify it, the generation gap is not only the gap between the ages of the concerned individuals but it also includes the cultural differences, difference in thinking, difference in behavior and attitude towards life as a whole. Surprisingly, the generation gap is not something new or recent.
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for elders and love gossip” was said by Socrates in 400 BC. So since ages, we are facing this problem. The only thing of concern is that the generation gap which was like twenty years is reduced to ten, five or so. During kindergarten days we used to sing in school-
Cuckoobera sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry, king of the birds is he,
Laugh cuckoobera laugh
Cuckoobera gay your life must be….
Please note, here the word gay meant glad, happy, etc.
About five years ago the word ‘gay’ came with all the expressions of denial and rejection. After September 2018 when the Supreme court declared section 377 as unconstitutional if you don’t respect the identity and individuality of gay people, then you are considered narrow-minded. The world is changing at a supersonic speed and it is extremely difficult to cope up with this ever-changing world. This, I feel is one reason which gives rise to the generation gap.
Increased life expectancy could be the other reason which comes to my mind. We medicos must take our share of credit for increased life expectancy, even though the world does not think that we are capable enough.
The third and another important reason is that the world has shrunk. It is a small global village now and the mobility of the society has swollen to an enormous extent making the rift between the generations grow wider and faster. During the bygone era, a potter’s son would become a potter. His father was his only mentor, who was like twenty years elder to him. His confidence, skill, experience, quality, everything superseded that of the novice junior potter. He respected his father and followed his footsteps. Now, what is happening is even if a surgeon’s son opts to become a surgeon, he goes to another part of the world to learn the finest skills. Surgically, he has an upper hand over his father, academically he is updated, he is more confident because of the global exposure. Now, it becomes difficult for him to follow his father’s footsteps. This is where the egos clash, the fabric of relationship loosens and the rift widens still further.
Karl Manheim, a social psychologist gave the theory of generations. He finds that people are greatly influenced by the socio-historic environment at the time of their youth. The different generations have certain characteristics specific to their generation. They have been categorized by different people in different ways. One of them being this way-
Baby Boomers- People born between 1946-1964.
Generation X (Xennials) 1965 -1976.
Generation Y (Millennials) 1977-1994.
Generation Z People born after 1995.
To make it easy I put it as
Old generation, above 60 years of age.
Young generation, less than 30 years of age.
People of my generation, whom I don’t like to call old and the young generation won’t accept me as young, I put them as middle generation, 30-60 years.
Our condition is like Turkey, Europe doesn’t accept it as it’s own and Turkey doesn’t like to be a part of Asia. This is reflected in the characteristics of this generation also.
Looking at the characteristics of these generations, we find huge differences.
Older generation people stick to their values and principles, are sincere, hard-working, follow traditions, value people over money and are emotional, giving more importance to people than self, taking life seriously and living in the real world.
Young generation, on the contrary, are luxury-loving, practical, doing smart work, tech-savvy believing in more pay less work, stubborn, value money over people, taking life casually, giving more importance to self and living in the virtual world.
The middle generation is very opportunistic, at times these people stick to their values, at times lead life casually. At times stubborn, at times giving excess importance to self and at times to people, at times practical and at times emotional.
Because of the sea of differences, the generation gap which was a niche soon becomes a gap, a rift, a gulf and eventually widens in gigantic proportions and becomes the Grand Canyon. It really seems to be difficult to traverse the distance from walking stick to selfie stick, from black and white TV to three-dimensional images. From “O jaane wale ho sake to laut ke aana to break up song, break up parties. From the real to the virtual world. But, these simple ways can solve the issue.
Let us try to bridge up the gap
Understand each other
Mutual understanding between the people of two generations is a must. Walk a mile into each other’s shoes, then understanding each other will be easier. If a youngster imagines being born during his grandparents/parents times, how would he be? I bet he would be like his grandfather. Their salary at that time was like rupees hundred. They had the responsibility of six brothers and sisters. They valued every penny. They used to walk the distance to their office. They have gone through all this, hence they are what they are. The older generation should also place themselves in today’s world and see. In Mark Zuckerberg’s time, they also would be seen on Facebook. In the era of companies like Arrow and Puma, they also would be adorning branded stuff. The youngsters are born during this era of technology and abundance hence they are what they are. To bridge the gap both have to bend a little on to the other side. We should remind ourselves if we do not bend a little, we break.
Communication is a two-way process and is very much lacking these days. Both the generations have to take initiative from their side and make it a point that everyday they speak to each other and not to their smartphones and other gadgets. A simple thing like having dinner together where the multigenerational persons can share their experiences of the day can work wonders. If not staying together, frequent family get together, playing simple games together can also strengthen the bond. Here, care should be taken to give more importance to listening, so that understanding will be better.
Mentorship and reverse mentorship
The younger generation should be ready to accept that the older generation people have a wealth of wisdom and experiences and they should be ready to learn from them and mold their lives accordingly. The older generation should also be ready to accept the mentorship of the younger generation in regards to technology and information. This can build a bond between the two. Having a big-hearted approach and accepting mentorship from the other generation especially the younger generation is quite a challenging job, but can be very well practiced. Respecting the young, as we expect to be respected by the young, is also a key point.
Being one with them
Try to be like them in one or the other way. If you happen to open your gate and see a small lovely puppy at your doorstep. If you want to express your fondness, what would you do? Obviously, you wouldn’t say mew-mew, you would say ‘bhu- bhu’ and within no time you would be playing with the puppy. We have to speak in their language, behave like them to befriend them. It’s ok to eat pasta with your son once in a while, keeping your favorite idli aside. Similarly, it’s ok to take your grandfather to the temple once in a while, keeping your favorite movie aside.
Check for similarities
Psychologist, Don Byrne studied the impact of similarity on early stages of relationship. He concluded that participants liked people with similar attitudes and disliked people with differences who stimulate negative feelings leading to anxiety, confusion, anger and repulsion. Hence, look out for similarities between the two of you. Someone is intelligent like his father. Someone is beautiful like her granny. Similarities will make you like that person, you will like to be in his company and the bond will become tight and secure.
Accept them as they are
How much ever you bend and adjust, your originality tends to pop out. The little quarrels, small misunderstandings, small differences of opinions are the wonderful things that spice up life if we know how to patch up at the end of the day. That is what makes a house a home. Life otherwise would be so boring and monotonous without these little sparkles. Even a movie with the best star cast is not enjoyable without songs, stunts, fights, etc. in between the dialogues. So, all said and done, we need to accept people as they are and also be mentally prepared that these small tiffs will always be there. Enjoy the tiffs, and in the end patch up. Love grows after small tiffs. Life is a great joy if we change our perspective about life.
Be the change you want to see in the world. I know I need to change and adjust. I must always remember that I have to take the initiative. Let the change begin with me.
— Dr. Anu
International Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Corporate Trainer