Enhancing Cross-Generational Communication Given how much our respective generations shape us, taking generational differences into account bolsters our work with clients and each other. From the President
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From the President  |   June 01, 2016
Enhancing Cross-Generational Communication
Author Notes
  • Jaynee A. Handelsman, PhD, CCC-A, is director of pediatric audiology at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery in the University of Michigan Health System. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 8, Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance; 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood; and 11, Administration and Supervision. jaynee@med.umich.edu
    Jaynee A. Handelsman, PhD, CCC-A, is director of pediatric audiology at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery in the University of Michigan Health System. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 8, Public Health Issues Related to Hearing and Balance; 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood; and 11, Administration and Supervision. jaynee@med.umich.edu×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Special Populations / Older Adults & Aging / Early Identification & Intervention / Healthcare Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / From the President
From the President   |   June 01, 2016
Enhancing Cross-Generational Communication
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.21062016.6
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.21062016.6
There are some amazing articles in this issue addressing the topic of aging and communication, including one on cognitive-communication for people with dementia by Tammy Hopper and another on hearing screening of adults in a primary care setting by Barbara Weinstein. Having said that, it is the article about how to talk with older clients—by Shelley D. Hutchins—that got my attention and was the inspiration for this piece.
I would like to consider cross-generational communication more broadly to include how we interact with one another in our own professions, as well as how we interact with our patients and families that represent generations that are different from our own.
This is an exciting time to be an audiologist or speech-language pathologist for many reasons, not the least of which is that we have multiple generations in our workforce and among the patients and families that we serve. I was born at the end of the first baby boomer group, which was influenced by the Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. We had landline telephones in our homes, black-and-white televisions with a few channels, and snail mail to communicate with family and friends who did not live close by.
Some of us completed our master’s theses and doctoral dissertations without the benefit of personal computers. On the other hand, our colleagues at the youngest end of the generational continuum have grown up with extensive use of technology, and they look to the internet for answers to their questions and for communicating with others.
The point is not to focus here on the details of what each generation experiences. It is to highlight that each of us has experiences in life that color who we are personally and professionally. I would argue that baby boomers as a group are less savvy about technology than are millennials or the latest group that some are calling Generation Z. That comfort (or lack thereof) affects how we communicate with one another, including about patients that we co-manage. It also affects how we orchestrate team communications around projects. I have given two extremes here to illustrate a point, yet there are subtler differences that are worth noting.
When I think about how I interact with the other audiologists on my team, who represent many generations, it is important for me to be mindful of what is comfortable for each person and how I can bring the group together in a way that works for everyone. I so appreciate the talent and perspective of every member of the team, as our life experiences affect what we each bring to the table. Those influences are also important to how we collectively provide services to our patients and their families.

We need one another to see things clearly and to make wise decisions for our professions and for those we serve. Collectively, we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Many of the children we see at the children’s hospital where I work come in with tablets to entertain them, and their parents are very comfortable with technology. On the other hand, we have family members who are not tech-savvy. For us, it is all about how best to maximize technology to facilitate quality care while being sensitive to what approach works best with our families.
I also want to address how those of us who are more seasoned interact with our students and early-career professionals. In an ideal world, we would be working together to take the best of what each of us has to offer. I have learned much over the years about the value of a team that includes diverse perspectives. In the context of generational differences, it seems to me that an ideal strategy would be to include members from each generation in discussions about important decisions, and to be sensitive always to our differences because of the environments in which we were raised.
Every perspective is important, and we need one another to see things clearly and to make wise decisions for our professions and for those we serve. Collectively, we are greater than the sum of our parts, as long as we are open to and aware of the places from which we all originate.
I am forever grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing friends and colleagues. I hope that you can savor the beauty and richness of others and honor the depth of their experiences, as well as your own.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
June 2016
Volume 21, Issue 6