A lot of people that are in this world love to talk about how millennials are this or how millennials are that. Honestly we may be all those things. We may be the generation that is so different than any before because of technology, not liking what older generations liked, or any other thing that people say about us. I say us because I myself am a millennial. But maybe just maybe millennials just long to be understood.
I know that for myself, my whole life I have longed to be understood. Now as I am a 24 year old, I desperately want to be understood and feel like I matter. This is amplified in the lives of twenty somethings because there is so much pressure on twenty somethings to be something great and do things with their lives. There is so many different stages of life that a twenty something can go through. Whether it is graduating college, getting a job, moving to an unknown place, getting married, getting another job, or even moving home after college; this time of a person’s life is something that can quite possibly go through 3-6 life stages in the span of 10 years. If you are unaware of how crazy that can make a life, think of this going through all 4 seasons of the year followed by a tornado, hurricane, and an earthquake in the span of a week. (I get that it sounds a little extreme) But its not that far off to imagine. Life spans are a crazy thing to go through especially when they are constantly changing. Let’s just take me for example, In the past two years I have graduated college, moved to an unknown place, taken a job in that unknown place, resigned from that job, got a new job in my hometown, moved back, and have lived at 4 different places in that time.
With all of that happening, a lot of people that are my age feel like they are incredibly vulnerable but also feel like no one listens to them. They don’t feel like anyone cares about them because their life is a huge variable and they are constantly on the move. People ask them how they are doing but that is it. They don’t invest in them and that leaves us millennials feeling even more vulnerable. We wonder if we matter and if anyone cares about us. We just want someone to have empathy on us.
Empathy – noun : the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
To some the word empathy has negative connotations, but what if we thought of the empathy as sitting on the curb with someone? I think that starts with us positioning ourselves in a way to listen to someone. It starts with three of the most important words in the English language. No, they aren’t I love you. The three most important words you can say to someone my age is TELL ME MORE. Tell me more puts you in a position to genuinely listen. So when you ask a millennial how are you doing and they respond with “good” please please say Tell Me More. It honestly will mean so much to them. It will mean you have time for them and they matter. And to a millennial that means everything in the whole world to them.
*Names have been changed in this next story
For me, the curb has become a couple places. The first is one of my coworkers offices, Martha* always listens, cares about what I have to say, and responds in a way that tells me that I matter. Her couch has become a curb in my life. That couch is somewhere that I do not have to perform but can be completely myself. And sometimes all of me is messy, it has faults, and shortcomings, but she accepts them all and loves me through it all. She asked me the other day to tell me more about what the curb and her office mean to me. I said “Martha, your office is such a safe place for me because I don’t have to be anything that I am not. I don’t have to live up to expectations in here and I can be myself completely.” I told her “The millennials including you and I we want someone, anyone to understand us. Because for me, to be fully understood is to be fully loved.” Secondly another curb in my life has become through another person who has come back into my life after going separate ways to college and some of post grad and then reconnecting in our hometown. Caroline* has just sat with me whether it be over coffee, dinner, or anything else we could thing to do when we hang out. She has sat and listened and not once tried to fix me. She knows that I am messy and yet does not ever try to fix me but has always tried to understand me. She knows my heart and yet still sits on the curb and does life with me. And all she asks for in return is that I do the same. That I sit on the curb with her and walk through life understanding her. Yes, we are all millennials and you may be asking “Well, how do I do this with people that are younger than me?” and I will answer that question with position yourself in a way that makes you listen.
“To be fully understood is to be fully loved”
You can start with these words when someone answers a question, TELL ME MORE, or some form of that, whatever feels natural. Put your heart and your posture in a position to listen. I promise you will learn more about millennials and probably any other age demographic on earth as well. People have stories and they are longing to be heard. Whether they are 5, 25, or 95 their story needs to be heard. People feel like they matter when they are listened to. Because people aren’t really much different than you are, and don’t you want to feel like you are understood? The time is now and there are people out there that need you to start listening and understanding where they are. When we start understanding people for who they are and not who you want them to be, the world might start to changing because you will begin to fight for them because you understand them.
So when someone answers the question, How are you? with a simple “good”, place your heart in a position to listen and say tell me more. Because we have stories and we want to share them but we don’t know if you care about listening until we see that you put yourself in a position to understand us. So lets be a culture that has empathy, listens, and sits on the curb with people.
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