In last Sunday’s New York Times, journalist Jessica Grose proudly proclaims her status as the childish sound of the Millennial Generation. She has been repeatedly criticized for sounding like a twelve year old, which is a problem for the audience listening to podcasts she appears in. Not just any podcast: at Slate magazine’s podcasts. This would be an appearance most personal brands would like to nail down, button down or whatever you consider “doing your best.”
Her point is: in thirty years, when Millennials are in power at corporations and media posts, her sound (which she identifies as Valley Girl – with lots of “ums” and “y’knows”) is going to be the sound of upper management. So, she rejected the counsel of a communications coach, who recommended she literally tone down her voice, and speak up like a professional.
I wondered how this rejection of the current norm, would be eventually considered a status symbol. Perhaps hippies and yuppies once felt the same way. After all: the preponderance of these populations generationally came to power in the last couple of decades.
Perhaps there are hippies and yuppies in those teetering, corner offices: but I have not met them. I have met people who seem pretty conventional, even though they have clearly matured beyond the Mad Men vision of management that preceded them. Would one day, we want to hear the editor of our most prestigious publication or Global 2000 company, say “Like, y’know, he goes and then she goes?”
Jessica notes the “upspeak” in her sentences: the way she ends her sentences sounding like she’s looking for approval, rather than making a point. Perhaps, she is right? Would you hope that management will sound like that? Would you feel more comfortable? Do these questions seem annoying?
Yes. It is annoying. The linguistics are annoying. And, that is trans-generation. Trans-culture.
At the risk of being conventional: do it the way it’s done now with a twist that makes it your own. Whatever your “it” is. And, don’t wait thirty years to have your chance – or your say. Have it now, which might mean do it “their way.” Sorry Burger King.
In any case: the Millennial sound is at its best when it’s diverse, with a side of seriously: we’re all grown up.