These days I’m still hearing and reading this and that about millennials, much of it involving them getting a bad rap. Let’s face it, dissing millennials is practically a trend!
Meanwhile I’m a boomer with lots of millennials in my inner circle. And I feel like providing some counterpoint. Toward that end, I’ll list some great qualities that the millennials I know have in common. Of course generalizing about a whole generation is a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall: some sticks, some doesn’t. But why not take that step? It’s the mood I’m in.
So what follows is my own POV. And if you don’t know, that’s screenwriter talk for “point of view.” Because one thing the millennials I know have in common is that they’re crazy about… movies! In fact, the combined knowledge of my three grown sons in the realm of filmmaking—directors, genres, styles, technical and creative nuance, and all manner of related info—is a constant wonder to me.
Most importantly at this moment, I say that awareness of POV is healthy, and smart. It’s about truly getting that we each have a certain perspective, certain biases of our own, rather than making blanket assumptions that others see (or should see) things the way we do.
So as I share my POV on the attributes of some wonderful milliennial-type people I know, consider how yours may be similar to mine or different. And off we go.
Millennials’ bullshit detectors are sensitive instruments.
To put it bluntly, surely you’ve noticed that millennials are quite willing to call bullshit when they detect it. Do you flash on an example as you read that? I do. Many. And I respect that superpower. It contrasts sharply with my memories of myself as a young adult, thoroughly trained from childhood as a people-pleaser.
And of course expressing one’s POV respectfully and/or gently makes a difference in the trenches of everyday life. In light of that tall order for all of us, I say that life experience over the long haul tends to soften the sharp edges that any of us may wield, whether intentionally or not.
Meanwhile, some folks probably experience this quality of many millennials as knee-jerk suspicion and premature judgment. But if my own experience is any indication, you may find that in sharing your perspective with millennials in a relaxed way, with curiosity about your differences, you can engage with them in some very satisfying dialogue.
I say take the time, while doing the work of keeping your own mind open. The quality of our relationships is worth that good work on all our parts, perhaps especially right… about… now.
Millennials are values-driven.
Generalizing is tricky, right? Because of course it isn’t true that everybody born between 1981 and 1996 is particularly values-driven. And yet, consider how little of what grounded us older folks as children and young adults is still running the show. Consider the reality of millions of young people coming of age in a brand new millennium.
Yes, in truth, life here in the early 21st century is so vastly different from my young-adult boomer days that it’s hard to comprehend. Maybe, while growing up with so much change, uncertainty, and resulting chaos, millennials have had to make their own meaning in order to make life feel worth living.
Because with all of us more and more free to be ourselves, I see the millennials I know as utterly willing to discover and act on their own individual values. And in the midst of that necessary work on their part, it sure seems like a brand new kind of 21st century social consciousness is emerging. If so, I say look out, world.
Millennials are environmentally conscious.
Environmental consciousness is one case in point. Even more than just being conscious of environmental issues, millennials are doing their homework and then taking meaningful action. They’re making life choices based on how our habitual ways of living, consuming, and doing business are affecting our precious planet.
What’s more, as their ecological knowledge continues to deepen and they get increasingly clear about what advances real progress, I predict they’ll begin dominating the conversation. Even something as straightforward as their buying power can make a permanent difference in the world.
And just imagine their voting power. When millennials truly grasp the reality of the power they hold politically, I say it’ll be nothing less than a game changer. Indeed, their unprecedented level of engagement in the 2020 election may be a teaser for what lies ahead.
The millennials I know are utterly willing
to act on their own individual values.
Millennials are socially conscious.
The millennials I know have zero patience with isms like racism and sexism. They’re also squarely laissez-faire in the realms of lifestyle, gender, and relationship choices.
The bottom line is, don’t waste your time or theirs on petty or even philosophical diatribes around these issues. Or feel free to go for it and get an earful in return. It’s “live and let live” with them in ways that renew my confidence in our future as a global community.
Millennials are effortlessly tech-savvy.
They’re like smart devices themselves, wired to connect without special effort via ever-changing technology. I’ve been aware of something new—their extreme neural plasticity relative to all things technological—since my now 33 year old-son Taylor was five. As I’ve sweated to hold my own in all that, I’ve marveled at their keen capabilities and called on them as expert resources.
And of course one juicy question is what will they do with their technological superpowers? Where are we really headed now as a species? As a planet? In the ongoing evolutionary process that they will soon lead, I’m banking on my hope that their strong connections to one another will ease the existential alienation that can seem baked into our increasingly digital lives.
Millennials have strong friend communities.
Speaking of superpowers, the millennials I know have the strongest friend communities I’ve ever seen. After all, they came of age as so many cultural, social, and religious rituals were losing their remaining relevance. So these days, perhaps in an evolutionary demonstration of emotional plasticity, millennials are crafting their own satisfying, even ritualized ways of being in community. It’s inspiring to see and to experience firsthand in special moments.
Millennials demand healthy relationships.
For years I’ve had the sense that these young folks have seen it all. To be clear, I don’t think they think they know it all, but they do know what they don’t want. They want authenticity, yes. But they also want stability. And they Do. Not. Want. Drama. Don’t try it.
Or go for it if you must, given your own conditioning. If you do, my prediction is that millennial-type people like the ones I know will just check you with some countermoves that help them continue to grow, and you as well. So maybe it’s in fact all good.
The millennials I know are crafting their
own satisfying ways of being in community.
Millennials transition with caution from romance to commitment.
Did you know that the 50% divorce rate we’ve been hearing about so depressingly for the last few decades has been changing lately? That’s because, in contrast to the way we Boomers blew up the stability of marriage and family life, GenX couples are so far staying together in greater numbers.
In a slightly different twist, the current “millennial way” is to proceed with caution in the realm of traditional committed relationships. I interpret this as part of their values-driven consciousness. They value stability, authenticity, and individual freedom. It’s a lot to integrate. In the process, they don’t mind waiting.
They also have the capacity to be truly straightforward with one another about what they want and are ready for—or not—in relationships. And I get the sense that, if the inherent messiness of living lands them at relationship endings with children involved, they’ll do things differently. Less Kramer vs. Kramer‘s tortured despair. More It’s Complicated‘s nuanced problem-solving. Another promising sign of our continuing evolution at a critical juncture.
And to end on a delicious note, millennials are foodies.
Just like plenty of folks around all of us these days, millennials are quite serious about food! So if you’re trying to connect with a particular young person or two, you may be able to do so quite pleasurably through your culinary appetites and explorations.
You may learn some things from them, too, in the realm of healthy, conscious deliciousness, with those multiple aspects of our food choices increasingly integrated. And when you think about how fundamental all that is to the sustainable human journey here in the 21st century, well, I see millennials’ best food-centric instincts as more signs of promise.
It’s a great time for us all to move forward, together.
And of course I hope my POV is helpful. Feel free to let me know as you walk your particular path, living the life you choose, while relating enjoyably to the millennials in your circle. After all, it’s as true as ever that 1. the one constant in life is change, and 2. the young ones in our lives really are the future. Let’s move into it in creative conversation and collaboration with them.
For more pieces from Teresa, click here.