More than a dozen participants came together to discuss generational diversity during a Conway Conversations event Thursday.
The discussion was one of several that members of the University of Central Arkansas Outreach and Community Engagement department have facilitated.
Lesley Graybeal said Thursday’s discussion was focused around some of the challenges of interacting with people from different generations and strategies that can be used to communicate.
“I think it’s a pretty common workplace challenge because people of all different ages work together in all sorts of context and so sometimes people just have challenges understanding what are the priorities and communication styles and all those of people who are from a very different generational background than they are,” she said.
Graybeal said she and the rest of the conversations planning team hoped that guests would come away with a better understanding of how people from different generations have different preferences and priorities but “one isn’t necessarily better or worse.”
“Somebody really preferring digital communication isn’t necessarily better or worse but that we can still work effectively together and communicate effectively,” she said.
The discussion was facilitated by Charlotte Strickland from the Office of University Training.
Strickland said overall she feels great about how Thursday went.
She said she’s reviewed the evaluations guests were asked to fill out and the only negative comment was just about time and wishing they had more.
During the event, participants took part in a generation perception exercise and wrote down key characteristics that came to mind when thinking about Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation Xer’s and Millennials, were asked to discuss answers among table members and then were required to consider their perceptions of each age group was accurate or inaccurate or both.
Strickland said the point of the discussion was to get people thinking about how broad generalizations and descriptors, which ted to oversimplify everything — aren’t always accurate and don’t solely represent who a person.
“It’s all about getting to know the person and hearing their particular experience,” she said. “Age is only one factor of who they are.”
Strickland said one audience member pointed out that she was a cusper — a name given to those born during the cusp years of two generations — and while she technically was classified as a Millennial, didn’t identify with any of the typical descriptions.
Strickland said the participant made a good point and said just because a person falls into a category doesn’t mean they represent the whole age class.
She said that only helps a person understand another but it shouldn’t be the only thing; conversations to get to know another should be had.
“That’s why [we] have these discussions,” Strickland said.
She said while they were hurt by time constraints, the Conway Conversations are a great starting point for people to talk.
Graybeal said that was the reason they started the dialogue events.
“We definitely started this series because after the 2016 election, it was a very difficult election season in terms of the types of conversations people were having and the type of negative atmosphere that was created by that,” she said. “I think we [saw] a need for people to come together with people who were different than them and just have open and honest conversations about their own feelings, their own identities [and] their own experiences in their community.”
Graybeal said they felt that people weren’t going to be able to move forward on any kind of political or social issue that concerned them if they weren’t able to have discussions with people with different views.
“The intention was just to provide a space for people to come together and have dialogue across differences so to be able to talk to people who are different than you about issues that are important to you because we all have to be able to have difficult conversations sometimes in order to all feel at home and respected in our community,” she said.
That aspect, Graybeal said, it what they are trying to accomplish with the variety of topics that affect a broad range of people.
The Conway Conversations Planning Team consists of Candice Barnes from the College of Education, Wendy Holbrook from the Division of Students Services, Steven Shook from the Center for Leadership Development, Angela Webster from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Graybeal and Strickland.
The group has two events coming up:
• Book discussion with panelists Graybeal, Holbrook and Shook 12-1 p.m. March 1 at UCA Downtown.
• Difficult Conversations Facilitator Training for those interested in hosting a dialogue or facilitating discussion from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 9 at UCA Downtown.
Both events are free but must sign-up for.
For more information on registering or the events, visit www.uca.edu/outreach/conversations.