"OK, Boomer: This Is How To Respond To Gen Z’s New Meme"

Forbes.com

Posted January 7, 2020 by Mark Perna

Instead of widening the generational rift, let’s advance the conversation. Mark’s article, “OK, Boomer: This Is How To Respond To Gen Z’s New Meme,” published at Forbes.com on November 26, 2019.

OK, Boomer.

If you’re the target of this new, headline-grabbing phrase, you’re supposedly out of touch—whether you’re a Baby Boomer or not. “OK, Boomer” is a verbal eye-roll that expresses derision, frustration, and a subversive compliance. And it says something important about the newest generation of Americans: they’re worried.

Generation-Z is worried about the future: their chances of economic success in a rapidly changing world, the exploding cost of higher education, environmental concerns, and societal injustices. Naturally, they see older generations as having a hand in creating or at least perpetuating these problems.

I’m a Boomer myself—and I’m proud of it. But that doesn’t mean my generation is perfect. We are the original “experience is everything” generation that pushed the boundaries of society. So why are we upset that today’s young people are doing the same thing? Isn’t it what we modeled?

Advancing the convo

If Boomers dismiss Gen-Z, then they’ll just follow suit. But if we choose to get past the “OK, Boomer” comeback, we’ll advance the conversation. Language is powerful. When we hear “OK, Boomer,” let’s check the urge to shoot back with “OK, Zoomer” and instead, do this:

  • Start listening. “OK, Boomer” means the other party has already checked out. Bring them back by asking questions, listening to the answers, and engaging with their point of view. They are intelligent and savvy, and they may be able to add something new to the conversation. There’s no quicker way to earn the “OK, Boomer” response than to shut down their contribution with a frustrating “because I said so” approach.
  • Show respect. Respect works very differently today than it did in years past. Millennials and Gen-Z don’t automatically accord respect to older generations; they expect it to be earned. However, if they feel respected first, they quickly reciprocate. To older generations it may feel backward, but letting go of certain expectations can go a long way toward mutually beneficial interactions.
  • Keep it civil. If young people aren’t willing to engage in civil conversation, older generations should ask themselves why. Maybe we Boomers haven’t always modeled that willingness ourselves. Better late than never, right? We don’t have to see eye to eye in order to engage in a civil dialogue. The way young people see things may be different, but different is not necessarily wrong. Their new perspective can lend value to the conversation if you look at them as a powerful asset to unleash.
  • We don’t have to see eye to eye in order to engage in a civil dialogue. Click To Tweet

Young people are concerned about the future and they want to make things better. They need to be heard instead of having their perspective—and entire generation—dismissed. Being intentional about listening, showing respect, and keeping the dialogue civil can mitigate the “OK, Boomer” comeback or at least help it become less of a knee-jerk reaction.

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In other words, we can do better. OK?

Read at Forbes.com


About The Author
Mark Perna
Mark C. Perna is an international speaker and bestselling author. He also serves as CEO of TFS Results, a strategic consulting firm at the forefront of the national paradigm shift in education and workforce development.
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