Breaking Down Generational Barriers!

18 Dec

As I am working on some thoughts about extroverts and introverts and people in between, I am also working out some things mentally about human nature and generational differences.  

There are a couple of things that may not be generational features, but which tend to show up more among my younger friends than among others.  It might be that all generations feel this way while younger, especially if older generations seem to be pushy with them socially.

The first thing is the tendency to treat social courtesies as though they were orders being given.  Have you seen this one?

It consists of someone giving the “right of way,” in a crowded shopping mall or somewhere else, to another person.  The usual way this has been done socially is by gesturing with the hand and/or saying, “Go ahead.”  What I had not heard, until the last five years, is the response, “Don’t you tell me what to do!”     

To be honest, I heard that once out of my son with Aspergers syndrome and explained to him that the person was being polite and putting himself second in order to let my son go first.  I think Joey got it–I never heard him say that again.  But I have heard it, before and after my son did it, from other members of his generation.

It is a dilemma, isn’t it?  How do we have a world in which people don’t crash into each other in crowded places if the person who steps back in kindness to let the other person go first is perceived as offending that other person?

The second thing is the rejection of compliments, specifically by stating that the person offering them does not have the proper credentials in that area to offer a compliment.  

Being an extrovert, I have long tried to offer encouragement to others via telling them when I think they have done a particularly good job on something. I am not an expert in every area of life and, granted, I may offer compliments in areas where I don’t have lots of expertise.  That used to be understood across the social strata, I believe.  

In fact, in my youth, if you sang the lead in the school musical, everyone would tell you that you did a great job, especially your grandparents and aunts and uncles!!!  No one would ever have thought to say to them, “You don’t have enough of a musical background to be able to judge whether my performance was good or not.”  But they do say that nowadays.

Two years ago, our choir sang excerpts from Handel’s Messiah for our Christmas cantata.  It was a labor of love on which we worked all year!  Since I had done it before, twice in England, I was worth my weight (really heavy at the time) in gold to my fellow choirmembers as we practiced.  I was used to people placing themselves on either side of me (and behind me) in order to hear my part (to either sing with it or to sing the alto part against it).

I got a lot of attention because of my experience with the piece, nothing more and nothing less. I would never have thought to differentiate between those who read music and who could tell what we were up against with that piece and those who don’t read music and who had to memorize the piece verbatim.  I would never have thought to reject the compliments of the latter group.

Yet I have since seen a tendency at concerts to want the person giving the compliment to establish her music credentials before the compliment will be accepted.  If a stranger (me!) comes up at a high school concert and says, “Great job on that solo!” it is hard to know what to do when the compliment is met by a stare.  

It is also hard to know what to do when complimenting a fellow handchimes musician after we play a number when the compliment is met with stony silence.  Is it necessary to first say all the disclaimer stuff like “I realize that I am only another handchimes player like you and I claim no special position to be able to judge your work, however I liked what I heard!”?    

Seems like we are going to have to find a way to meet each other halfway here.  Things that once were seen as social kindnesses that helped the world go ’round are now being billed as unnecessary intrusions into people’s lives.  

And I am still not sure how to get through a crowded mall without holding up my hand to let someone else go first.  Unless I just plow my way through like a Sherman tank, ignoring everyone around me . . . (yikes!).

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