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Surviving Thanksgiving: Generational Differences

Holiday traditions are often passed from one generation to the next. A family recipe, a football game or a favorite dish, sharing a piece of holiday history helps families stay connected. It’s the time of year for family gatherings, happiness, and good cheer. Family time can be made easier by following a few simple suggestions.

First we all must understand generational differences exist. Realizing and acknowledging Grandma grew up walking to school both ways in the snow and her great grandchild isn’t even allowed to walk to school. Mom remembers the days of the dial up modem while her teenager has no concept of life before the smart phone. These differences can and do pose very unique problems especially when we are all gathered together over the Holiday season to celebrate.

Anytime a group of people is labeled a “generation,” there is stereotyping and generalization, but the classifications prove useful in understanding shared experiences, circumstances, and culture. A generation is defined as a group of people born in the same general time span who share some life experience, such as big historical events, pastimes, heroes, and early work experiences.

So what are the 7 different generations and when were they born:

The Greatest Generation (born 1901–1927)

The Silent Generation (born 1928–1945)

Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)

Generation X (born 1965–1980)

Millennials (born 1981–1995)

Generation Z (born 1996–2010)

Generation Alpha (born 2011–2025)

Each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational buttons. Being aware of this can help us tailor our communications, regardless of the task, or the relationship — family, friends, or coworkers. Good relationships are based on understanding ourselves and others. For free in-depth info on generational characteristics, difference, and similarities visit

The key to quality family time between different generations lies in our ability to understand generational motivations and values. Being able to appreciate these differences and similarities to enhance our relationship is the key to success.

Since we can’t control how Uncle Charlie will act, we must work on developing and rehearsing our responses to his comments in advance. If someone makes a snide comment say “I’ll take that as a compliment” or if politics or religion are discussed simply say “It sure is an interesting time” Don’t counter attack; instead try to redirect to another subject by using humor. You can only control yourself and your responses; so this approach will also minimize the emotional impact of the comments.

Why can’t our family get along? Why can’t we communicate well with each other? Because many of us don’t

know generational diversity exists. If we don’t realize we have generational difference, we don’t understand how this affects our perceptions and others. Take the below picture. Is it a 6 or a 9? It depends upon whose shoes you are in i.e. what perspective you see the number from?

Creating an attitude of respect for all generations is critical. Perhaps the most useful skill we can learn for showing respect by doing unto others while keeping their preferences in mind. This is coined the Platinum Rule. Although there are important differences between the generations, they also have important commonalities. Successful family gatherings should focus on these similarities to ensure peace and harmony over the dinner table.

  1. Understand there are generational differences and don’t take these differences personally

  2. Try to see things through others perspectives (is it a 6 or 9)

  3. Respect others for who they are

  4. Prepare for conflictual comments with a practiced response. This will limit emotions and enable control.

  5. Practice the Platinum Rule

  6. Build on similarities and focus on these as opposed to differences

Your holiday family time can be even more joyful by following these suggestions. Remember the holidays are a time to be grateful so practice kindness if someone annoys you as you control how you react.

For free in-depth info on generations, visit RSI Leadership and Coaching. RSI Leadership & Coaching offers specialized training on generational communications. Also offered are numerous leadership and development course to help you accomplish your goals whether they be at home, work, or your community. For more information go to or call 888-830-5648.

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