The same problem seems to be repeating.  Perhaps it’s happening to you also.  It goes something like this:  Several of my associates are in a business meeting and George, who owns a Commercial Real Estate firm, unloads his frustration about working with younger people, especially Millennials:

“Why can’t they learn to speak?  They talk so fast I can’t understand them.  They mumble their words while looking at the floor instead of me.  Why don’t they look you in the eye when they are speaking?  And, don’t even get me started on their problems with listening.  Do they even hear what I’m telling them at all?   Seems like they’re in a different world of their own, and the rest of us don’t belong.  ARGGGHHH”

Several of us chimed in with our own frustrations:

“The barista at Starbucks talks so fast I can’t understand her.  When I ask her to speak up, she just continues to mumble at the floor, but a bit slower. I know she thinks I’m dull or hard of hearing”

            “I made the clerk at Nordstrom’s repeat her care instructions about my new suit FOUR times before I could understand what she was trying to tell me.”

            “My children are so busy texting they can’t take time to listen to me.  I just can’t get their attention!”

            “I can’t get my sales reps to pay attention to what I’m saying.  They’re off on their own, never even look at me.  And when they do talk to me, I just can’t follow it.”

Folks, we have a problem, and it’s much worse than we thought.   The next generation, our sons and daughters and grandchildren, the largest generation ever (79 million strong) don’t understand how to communicate effectively!   Worse yet, they don’t think it’s a problem!   However, by my estimates, this is a multi-Billion dollar problem, and it is having a serious negative impact on business, relationships, and civilization.

Before we get into the causes and the cures, let’s examine the scope of this problem.  Here’s what we know so far about this affliction:

  • It’s mainly infected the Millennials (anyone under age 34), but is rapidly spreading to GenX (age 35-50)
  • It related to the internet and mobile phone usage
  • Technology speeds everything up, which relates to the speed of speaking
  • When your whole universe is dominated by your cell phone, why bother to look at anyone?
  • If you can get anything done through your mobile, why bother with people?
  • If you don’t speak to people, you’ll never learn how.
  • Texting is easier than talking, and way more efficient

Put yourself in THEIR place and see a new reality. If you grew up with a cell phone in your face, almost from birth, it would be the most important possession you own.  Young people are addicted to their cell phones (it’s called nomophobia), and if their phones are taken away they experience all the classic physical symptoms of withdrawal (anxiety, fear, frustration, headaches, anger etc.)

Since they are attached to their phones, they exist in “cyberspace” about 30-50% of their time.  Except gamers, who are closer to 80% living in the alternate world.  And since everything on the internet is about speed, they’ve learned to type and text with two fingers faster than most typists with a full keyboard, and they comprehend technology at the speed of light.  BTW, all this information transfer occurs in silence.  Ergo, there was not much need for speaking skills while they were growing up, so they never learned how!

If you never learned how to drive a car (very common with Millennials), you’d just Uber everywhere and not bother to learn.

If you didn’t learn how to cook, you’d just go to restaurants or order in.  Or have the food delivered to your doorstep after ordering through your mobile.

If you wanted a date, you’d go online and search.  Why venture out physically?

If you’re curious about anything, google it.

If you want to buy anything, click on Amazon.

I’m sure you get the idea here.  We are all products of the environment we grew up in, and Millennials grew up in an environment that eliminated the necessity for personal, face-to-face communication.  So, they never learned and don’t see the need to learn.   And you can’t teach anyone anything if they don’t see any need to learn it.

That’s the problem in a nutshell.

For the solution, see my next blog.

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