Relating in the ecotone
We see examples of it all the time. The transitional zone between ocean and land, forest and grassland, sidewalk and yard, even hairline and forehead. The area of transition between two adjacent communities is called an 'ecotone'. It is a fertile place, containing species characteristic of both communities as well as species occurring only within the particular zone – ie, head lice and bacteria.
There are five generations alive today in the United States. This has never happened before in the history of our society. As such we find ecotones in offices, classrooms, families, churches, and other places that contain not two, but five different species of human beings.
These transitional zones are fertile generational communities that require behavioral nutrients for them to thrive in healthy, dynamic, and organic ways. Work them in to your daily life:
Revisit Assumptions: You need to be in constant vigilance of your stereotypes. We all have them (blondes are dumb) but are they accurate? Constantly test your assumptions about other generations by prefacing your interactions with, "Help me understand". It is a precursor to rich conversation and understanding.
Relax Control: Life is messy. Relationships are tough. Managing is stressful. 90% of the problems middle managers and above face are ambiguous. It usually is not clear what the problem is or what the solution should be. So lighten up with one another. As that great philosopher of our age Jimmy Buffett intones, "If we all couldn't laugh we would all go insane".
Return to core values: You are who you were when. That is to say, the values that shape your behaviors, attitudes, and expectations were set by the time you were a sophomore in high school. Some cultural values change over time, but what about you personally? What hasn't changed? What are you really all about? What are your 'nos'? Clarify your values so they aren't muddled for others.
Model the highest standards: This behavioral nutrient interfaces closely with core values. Behavior is ten times more important than words in building respect. Does your behavior align with your core values? In other words, how is your brain, mouth, and hand coordination?
Engage the other: This is easier said than done. It requires you to stretch and expand your behavioral repetoire. By expanding your engagement across the five age groups you become more effective across a larger number of situations. I always say everyone has the gift of eating. Invite someone younger or older than you to lunch today.