By SEKI NG
Fellow millennial, experienced trainer and recent Area C3 Humorous Speech Contest Winner Seki Ng ponders the whys and a solution that could bridge the communication gap between the generations.
An adult once shouted at me, “Sei jing ba hao“. It literally translates to this, word for word: “Die leaving the mouth.” It is a rather common expression in the Cantonese language to depict a person who is only a talker without actions to back him or her up.
As a child, sei jing ba hao also felt like a term that the adults used to shut the youngsters up when they were losing an argument…
Parents, be careful of what you tell your child
Whether it was true of me at the time or not, what you hear as a child tends to turn into reality when it is said of you, one too many times (especially when you are young and impressionable). So from a young, chatty boy, I slowly became afraid of sharing my thoughts or inner feelings with others – even the ones deemed close to me.
It came to the point where I was imagining how it would look like to have every part of your body turn to dust except for the mouth after I passed on. Yes, it did not help that I also have a vivid imagination.
As a young boy, I envied my friends who would get the toys they fancied or wanted from the store. I did not even dare ask for 30 sen to get a popsicle. While my friends would boast about getting the latest Sega Saturn or Nintendo 64 for their birthdays, I was often presented with Enid Blyton story books, some of which I would not start reading until maybe three years later.
What I wanted vs what my parents wanted
Back then, I was not a big fan of reading, but I knew that was what my parents wanted me to like. So, I consoled myself, saying that I could always go to my friend’s house to play whatever video games they had. And if there was a power failure, I would still have my three year’s worth of unopened story books to keep me company. Of course, when there REALLY was a power failure, my books remained on the shelf unopened…
It may seem as though what I had experienced in my childhood was one that portrayed me as a victim, but my situation is rather common in most Malaysian households.
Here’s why millennials are turning to social media to express themselves
As I reminisced my childhood, I realised how it played a part in fashioning our social lives. As the saying goes, you will reap what you sow. If we think about it, the harvest is the evidence of why we are in this current state.
My generation was brought up with the fear of voicing out or expressing thoughts. We still have many people in their thirties who hate their jobs because they are dictated to by their bosses instead of being allowed to suggest better ways to improve a system. They keep mum because they are afraid of supposedly making their superiors look stupid in front of others, and therefore stand a higher chance of being victimised at their workplace (or sacked, for that matter). And so, with all the pent-up frustrations, they seek a platform to express their thoughts… they turn to social media….
It is so accessible today. Anyone who owns a smartphone would have instant access to various social media platforms. It has become a lifestyle for some to keep updating their profiles or posting pictures, or even rant. It is like they are compensating for lost time (when they were oppressed by the elders and couldn’t express themselves). So much so that the current generation is not able to live a day without their beloved phones – they are glued to it. Take a stroll into any cafe, 70 percent of visitors are looking at their phones, even when lining up to order.
Are millennials dysfunctional or…?
It made me think on a deeper level: as human beings, we are creatures of emotion. Expressing our thoughts is a way for us to release (those emotions). Not being allowed to express ourselves is akin to having ’emotional constipation’. Once it reaches its limit, nothing beautiful can come out of it. Today, we hear the elderly complaining that the current generation has lost their ability to carry out a decent conversation. While that may be true, it is just scratching the surface of a more deep-rooted problem. It is always easier to place the blame elsewhere than to look inwards. As a trainer, I have conducted this exercise to try and get to the root of the problem. It is called the “five whys”. Let us take this situation as an example:
Problem : The current generation does not know how to carry out a decent conversation.
Why #1 : They are too pre-occupied with social media on the phone.
Why #2 : They feel the need to document their lives to let the world know their feelings.
Why #3 : They don’t have a place to express themselves freely.
Why #4 : They are afraid of being victimised or ridiculed.
Why #5 : They are told not to say anything at the risk of being wrong.
The power lies with YOU
The problem is often far from the one we see on the surface. Sometimes, the problem doesn’t even appear until a lot later, and in this case, it took a generation’s worth of time before it started to show. One of the previous World Champions of Public Speaking, Mohammed Qahtani, once said,
“Words have power, words are power, words could be your power. You can change a life, inspire your nation and make this world a beautiful place. Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t that why we are all in this whole? Your mouth can spit venom or it can mend a broken soul.”
So, the next time we engage the younger ones in a conversation, let us not shut them up. Let them express their ideas. Let them express their feelings. Instead of lecturing them, find out more about what they have to say, why they said it, and how we can be guiding them encouragingly. Never think that they are ever wasting your time. They are talking to you because your input to them matters. Your input matters to them because YOU matter to them.