These days, as ever, I continue hearing and reading this and that about millennials. And much of it involves them getting a bad rap. Let’s face it, dissing millennials has been and remains 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 the truth is, generalizing about a whole generation is a bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall. But why not counteract some of the negative stuff I’m tired of hearing? 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 into movies! In fact, the combined knowledge of my three grown sons in the realm of filmmaking—directors, genres, styles, and all manner of related info—is a constant wonder to me. And I say that awareness of POV is healthy, and smart. It’s about getting that we each have a certain perspective, certain biases of our own, rather than making blanket assumptions that others see things the way we do.
Anyway, I do know a lot of wonderful milliennial-type people. As I share my personal perspective below, consider how your POV may be similar to or different from mine. 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 increasing life experience over the long haul tends to soften the sharp edges that any of us may wield, whether intentionally or not, as we live and share our perspectives and values.
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 on an issue in a relaxed way, with curiosity about your differences, you may find yourself engaged 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 of everybody born between 1981 and 1996 is particularly values-driven. And yet, consider how little of what grounded us boomers 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!
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 make sense and feel worth living.
Because with all of us more and more free to be ourselves, free to determine as individuals whatever that is and means for us, the millennials I know are utterly willing to discover and act on their 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 in fact emerging. If so, I say look out, world.
Millennials are environmentally conscious.
Indeed, I see environmental consciousness as a case in point. But 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.
And as their ecological concerns build, and they begin to really get what in fact advances or inhibits real progress, I predict they’ll begin dominating the conversation. Even something as straight-ahead as their buying power can make a real and permanent difference in the world.
What’s more, just imagine their voting power. I’ve been feeling for several years that when millennials truly grasp the reality of the power they have politically, it’ll be nothing less than a game changer. And if their unprecedented level of engagement in the 2020 election is a teaser for what’s ahead, well, again, look out, world!
The millennials I know are utterly willing
to act on their own individual values.
Millennials are socially conscious.
Yes, 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 go for it, and get an earful in return. It’s “live and let live” with them in a way that gives me new hope for 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, straight up, no doubt. 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 it? Where are we really headed now as a species, and a planet? In the ongoing evolutionary process that they will soon lead, I personally hope their strong connections to one another can affect the existential alienation that seems baked into our increasingly digital lives.
Millennials have strong friend communities.
Because, in fact, the millennials I know have the strongest friend communities I’ve ever seen. After growing up in an age in which so many remaining cultural, social, and religious rituals lost their relevance, millennials are crafting their own satisfying, even ritualized ways of being in community. It’s inspiring to see and to be part of in special moments.
Millennials demand healthy relationships.
The sense I have is that these young folks have seen it all. I don’t really 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 counter moves that help them continue to grow, and you, too. So maybe it’s all in fact 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 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 contrast, 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. And 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 serious about food. So if you’re trying to connect with particular millennials, you may be able to do so quite enjoyably through their bellies and yours.
You may learn some things, too, in the realm of healthy, conscious deliciousness, with those three aspects of food choice-making increasingly integrated. And when you think about how fundamental all that is to the sustainable human journey here in the 21st century, well, I say millennials’ best food-related instincts are more signs of promise.
Now of course I hope my POV is helpful. Let me know, as you walk your particular path, living the life you choose to live, while relating as consciously as possible to the millennials in your family and community. After all, it’s as true as ever that the one constant in life is change, and that the young ones in our lives really are the future. Let’s move into it in creative conversation and collaboration with them.
Meanwhile, remember, the journey really is the destination, for all of us. Relish it in all its super-weird, ever-changing glory, even or especially the twilight zone that is 2020. Onward!