Thursday, November 8, 2007

What does it mean to be nice?

I had a great conversation this week with a 30-year-old Gen Xer who says she's annoyed with her Boomer colleagues saying she needs to be nicer. At the start of the conversation, she didn't realize that she is not alone in this challenge and it is a common complaint among Gen Xers.

To Boomers, being nice often means small talk. That's nice. However, this same chit-chat often seems insincere to Xers. So when the Boomer colleague inquires about the Xer's kids, the Xer will be polite, but may feel the Boomer is faking interest. When the Xer does not reciprocate the family question, it can obviously offend the Boomer.

Another scenario is when giving criticism. Often Boomers will give you the criticism sandwich - a good comment, the criticism, a bad comment. This can be affective with Xers, yet, the critical point (the criticism) may be lost in the sea of compliments. Conversely, when a Xer just spills it, the Boomer can be offended, because they only got the meat - not the bread and the condiments.

I think once Xer and Boomers are conscious of this different, the conflict goes away, because they then interpret the messages as they are meant to be.

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