Chris Voss Explains How to Bridge the Generational Gap

Chris Voss

Former FBI hostage negotiator and Black Swan Group CEO Chris Voss says he relies on a “collaborative dance” to work through generational differences.

Generations are like culture. You run into problems when you think you have a vernacular nailed or that your way is the correct way. As soon as you start to adapt and make the other person feel heard, all the generational stuff falls away… Millennials and generation Zs are probab ly going to be more tolerant of preaching from someone their own age; we all have memories of our parents. Be brief, no matter the other person’s age, because you want them to start giving you feedback.

Autonomy and agency are distinct human needs. Autonomy is: “Do I feel safe?” Agency is: “Do I have influence on my future?” Perceptions of safety and control might change with generations but by throwing out educated guesses on how the other person is interacting with you, they’re going to bring you in. A rap on millennials is they’re not resilient because they didn’t grow up through tough times. But the willingness to take risks can come from how much adversity you’ve survived or whether your parents embedded in you a sense of optimism.

There’s an issue of neuroplasticity. Someone who’s 19 can download new information faster than the over-25s; that stymies intergenerational conversation occasionally. Plus, the first thing I’m going to do with new information is filter it through 60-odd years of life experience. A 19-year-old doesn’t have that much experience to filter through.

Under-25s have been conditioned to be more analytical but that doesn’t mean their default style is Analyst. [Voss identifies three negotiator types: Analysts, Assertives and Accommodators.] Because of texting, they’ve often been exposed to far less emotional intelligence. When we run in-person training, younger people discover emotional intelligence and how powerful your tone of voice can be in an approach.

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