Communication, be it written or oral, has seen a colossal change especially in the past 10 years. The advent of technology is the reason for this paradigm shift in the way we communicate. Letters are definitely passé. E-communication is prevailing. WhatsApp has now become a formal channel of communication today.
However, this change has also brought a shift in the usage of language. For example, the word SICK, would mean unwell, or distasteful, to a person who belongs to my generation (born in 70s) or before. Ask Gen Z, and they would say it means AWESOME or COOL! This realization dawned on me a couple of years ago when I had an interaction with a student. At the end of it, he says, “Thanks a ton Ma’am. You are really sick”. For a minute, my heart simply sank. How would you feel if after counseling a student for almost an hour, he/she calls you sick? In that one minute (that is, until I did a Google search), I started to doubt my own abilities, as a teacher, as a mentor and most definitely as a faculty member who teaches communication skills.
Welcome to the world of Internet slang. In today’s fast moving world, actual words are replaced with abbreviations, short forms and combination of alphabets and numbers. With Whatsapp being the common channel of communication, the young generation has moved on to expressing themselves with emojis and slang language rather than actual words.
On the flip side, this progress in technology has proven to be detrimental to the development of our millennials. Thanks to autocorrect and predictive dictionary, all they have to do is start with an alphabet or word and our super smart phones and software on computers will give you options of words and even entire sentences. Due to this dependence, given a pen and paper; spellings, ability to frame sentences, skill of writing letters, will be lacking for gen Z. ChatGPT has become a boon to Gen Z who only have to key in a few words and get a readymade essay/paper/article, that they call their own.
The use of Internet slang is so prevalent that Gen Z fails to draw the line between casual communication and professional communication. At workplace, it is absolutely essential to use professional communication skills, but it’s very common to see K instead of Okay, U instead of You, NP instead of No Problem, F9 instead of Fine, on WhatsApp. Even during a conversation with the senior manager, words such as savage (meaning someone who is tough), lit (meaning something that is exciting), slay (meaning someone who is excelling at a task) flow so superfluously from the mouths of Gen Z, that they do not realize that the receiver of the communication belongs to a different generation altogether and may completely misunderstand what you have said.
For example : If you report to your senior that you have slayed the presentation with the client, your statement would infuriate your boss as his understanding would be, that you ruined the presentation and eventually, have caused loss to the organization.
So, the lesson to be learned is simple. It takes two to tango. Hence, for every communication to be effective, the sender has to necessarily understand the receiver and accordingly communicate. It seems simple, but communication is a six-step process which has to be done tactfully. What you send across has to be properly deciphered by the receiver. So think before you communicate.
Tony Robbins said “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” To all those
reading this article, I can only pray that God bestows on us all (by all, I mean all age groups) this realization and understanding!
So the next time you hear someone call you SICK or GOAT, you better feel elated about yourself!
The writer of this article is Sushma Karwa, Assistant Professor at IES’s Management College and Research Centre. She has been teaching for over 20 years. She has completed her Post Graduation in Management specializing in the field of HR. She is also a Post Graduate in Training and Development and an Internationally Certified Trainer. She has a penchant for interacting with all kinds of people especially with her students.