Communicating with Many Generations

I’ve recently been writing leadership training for a couple of direct selling companies, teaching leaders how to use social media to work more efficiently, and effectively communicate with their teams. And the one thing I keep coming back to is how different generations communicate, and how it affects us as direct sellers.

If you’ve recruited anyone under the age of 30 recently, you know that the only way to get an immediate response is to text that person. In fact, I was speaking with the youth pastor at my church this past weekend, and he was telling me how email is no longer relevant to the youth and young adults that he works with. They just don’t check it.

So that means that if you want to communicate with Generation Y, you’d better learn how to get your point across in 140 characters or less.


But what also fascinates me is how differently generations communicate. Particularly because we have 4 different generations in the marketplace right now.

  • There’s the Traditionalist, who is 66-86.
  • The Baby Boomer is about 47-65.
  • You’ve got Generation X, who is 33-46.
  • And finally, there’s Generation Y, who is 18-32 (for our purposes.)

The traditionalist prefers handwritten notes and phone calls. Email, cell phones, and social networks can all be overwhelming. The Baby Boomer prefers face to face and telephone communication. Interestingly, our current training systems seem to be designed with her in mind. She has challenges with social networking and texting.

Now compare this to the Generation X team member. She prefers (short) email, texting, and social networks. Some of her challenges include face to face meetings, formal letter writing, and group discussions (what does that tell you about your team meetings?) And for Generation Y, she doesn’t even use email (except for school and work if she has to.) She much prefers texting and social networks. Her biggest challenges are talking on the phone, face to face meetings, and reading long documents.

You can read more about this here:

So as you communicate with your team, you need to keep in mind that the age of your team members will affect whether or not they hear you. You may have to craft your team communications in several different ways in order to reach everyone. Ultimately, you have to be good at all the communication techniques if you want to be effective as a leader: Phone, face to face, texting, social networks, email, etc. It may not be comfortable, but it’s necessary.

How do you adjust your team communications to accommodate the communication styles of your team? Do you ask them how they prefer to receive messages? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

14 Responses to Communicating with Many Generations
  1. Malkah Geller
    May 9, 2012 | 2:05 pm

    This topic frustrates me to no end. I’m a baby boomer… will be 65 in October. I do text and use social media, but it’s immensely frustrating when (mostly younger) people don’t even have the courtesy to reply to a text when the response is not a positive one. I can handle “no” answers just fine but have a very hard time with no responses at all. Any insights?

  2. Anne Schabert
    May 8, 2012 | 11:56 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Jennifer. I think if more of us spent quality time learning how to effectively communicate and, most important, how to really listen to others (this is where demographics is really important), success in network marketing would skyrocket. Thanks for all that you do for the industry, and us.

  3. Linda Kinsman
    April 16, 2012 | 1:03 pm

    Very helpful and insightful as I applied your post with my recent attempt to understand why my direct sales emails were opened/read by just a handful of customers.
    I bet if I go back and look closely at age, I’ll find the ones that opened it are Gen X’ers and savvy baby boomers. I like to think of myself as the latter. 🙂
    Linda Kinsman recently posted..May I Introduce JAFRA Cosmetics

  4. Sherrie Gottesman
    February 27, 2012 | 2:30 pm


    Your article is right on the money. I will definely keep it in mind throughout my business dealings. Thanks for writing it.

  5. Cheryl Freye
    July 13, 2011 | 11:21 am

    Jen, thanks again for making us think. For me this is more of a challenge when dealing with customers from all 4 of the groups rather than with team members. It is especially true when I am trying to communicate something (workshop, new product, sale, etc.) to all of my customers. It is easier if I am doing one-on-one then I can use their preferred method.

  6. Linda Lucas
    July 12, 2011 | 4:25 pm

    Good Information – as always. Thank you. I encourage my clients to ask during an interview, with their customers, hostesses, etc., “Which way do you prefer to be contacted? Phone, Text, or email”. For those in Party Plan – this should be a part of their Hostess Coaching, and customer follow-up conversation. And yes, I had to embrace (cough) texting. Thank heavens for voice to text app’s! :>)
    Linda Lucas recently posted..Comment on Direct Selling – Never prejudge a potential recruit. by Leanne Chesser

  7. Carl Webb
    July 12, 2011 | 3:23 pm

    Jennifer! I’m a baby boomer…I had to chuckle that you had about nailed the description of these seemingly more and more distinct generational groups. As always there are exceptions…I text about as much as Gen X or Y’s., but still find it a bit frustrating sometimes! And,had not really thought about how much I have gotten away from email until I read your article! Thanks for the insight…and like previous posts…any answers from ya??


  8. Joe Barrera
    July 12, 2011 | 2:01 pm

    So how does Skype fit into this? Any idea?

  9. Kim L.
    July 12, 2011 | 10:40 am

    Thanks, Jennifer – this was so helpful not only for communication to my team but also for customer communications. I serve customers in all 4 generations and do find it challenging to reach them all. Do you have ideas for creating a simple system that would accomplish this??

  1. What’s the Best Way to Invite People to a Direct Sales Party? | Direct Sales and Social Media | Jennifer Fong's Blog
  2. Reaching Your Target Market In Different Generations | Direct Selling Education Foundation
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  4. Do You Know How Your Customers Want to Communicate? | Direct Sales and Social Media | Jennifer Fong's Blog
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