Friday, March 6, 2015

Intergenerational Communications

Intergenerational communications was the topic of a training program recently at the hospital where I work. The theme of respect was discussed and is critical to treating one another well. Clearly one of the New Testament themes is brotherly kindness, which means truly caring for one another.

The training program of which I speak did not address specific language strategies for intergenerational communications. It seems to me that when addressing someone that you do not know, the respectful title of Mr. or Mrs. and their surname is always appropriate.  A person’s first name should be used when given permission by the person or patient, particularly if you are in a healthcare setting.  It is always appropriate to ask a person how they would like to be addressed.  In this way we are not only showing respect, but might also find out about the accuracy of our records.

I have noticed that sometimes when an elderly person is addressed, the other person may raise their voice, speaking more loudly, implying that the person is hard of hearing.  More inappropriate is a tendency I have witnessed of “dumbing down” communications, assuming the person is not capable of understanding.  This is disrespectful and annoying for the older person frequently. Perhaps even more inappropriate is calling someone, “Dear" or "Honey.” This is condescending and not respectful. However, if an elderly person addresses a much younger person with these appellations it is more acceptable. The following website deals with intentional programs for elders and millennials to communicate better.

Biblically, the reference is to make all communications with gentleness and respect. Beyond that, if there is an important communication to make, ask the other person to verify that they understand. Also, asking if there is a need for clarification or if there are questions is useful.  We have all heard of the “Golden Rule”, treating people as you would want to be treated. I think perhaps a better rule is one I have heard referred to as the “Platinum Rule.” This means treat someone as they would have you treat them, which means we must first understand what that might be. This higher level of interest will help develop a relationship with trust.
Pr 15:1 "A gentle answer turns away wrath."

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts.