When was the last time you wondered if you are an ageist, that is prejudice against age?
Even if you are approximately the same chronological age as your ideal clients and your peers, you may not be immune from ageism. This insidious prejudice could still be a strong negative influence.
Ageism or prejudice related to age which labels others as either “too young” or “too old” for certain things, is usually automatic and unconscious.
Most people, consciously and unconsciously, adopt different sets of stereotypes as their personal norm. For instance, individuals often apply their own standards to others whom they consider their equal in age. Since individuals usually see themselves as younger by a decade or more than others perceive them, effective communication can become complicated.
Even prospects or clients who are the same age as you, can believe themselves “too young” for some things and “too old” for others. This means they’ll decide this for you, too, whether you share their ageist standards or not.
Do not use age-related comments unless you know exactly why age is relevant to the discussion. It usually is not.
For instance, to build rapport, professional advisors, who perceive new prospects to be older than they are, may use foot-in-mouth comments like “that’s just like my grandparents” or still bad “that’s just like my parents” to break the ice with these “older” people.
- If prospects see the professionals as being of a similar age, the prospects may feel they have just been insulted.
- If the prospects are older, the professionals may have lost credibility by pointing out the probably-irrelevant age difference.
How’s that rapport building coming along?
If you want to bring your thinking and communicating into the 21st Century, tackle ageist anchors which may hold you back, personally and professionally. When there is a difference in chronological age between you and your clients—in one direction or the other—you have opportunities to end ageist stereotypes and help clients appreciate themselves as individuals. Which ageist barriers stand in the way of your delivery of extreme service excellence?
Stereotypes represent bias and weakness in our knowledge and understanding. These mental shortcomings emerge as ageism, racism, sexism, and on the -isms go.
This disconnect is compounded by the fact that many of these perceived limitations and restrictions can be traced back to the 19th and 20th Centuries, if not before. Particularly shocking news if the 21st Century is the only one you’re worked or even lived in.
Consider ageism in yourself, your peers, your staff, and those who you answer to, including prospects and clients. Who believes the “too old” and “too young” labels? Remember, ageism is automatic and unconscious. Ramp up your powers of observation before you shrug this analysis off as unnecessary or start calling other people out before taking a long look at yourself.
Which effective communication strategies will achieve the greatest results with the maximum enrichment of relationships and workplace productivity? The key to improvement lies in appreciating individual uniqueness instead of repeating clichés and perpetuating prejudice in its most insidious form—humor. For instance, stop memory-lapse “jokes” like “I’m having a senior’s moment.” Become part of the solution.
How have you deliberately shed out-dated reactions and aligned your communication with 21st-Century realities about chronological age?