We’re always told that young people are the future, yet we shut down their ideas as naive. Sure, they may not have years of experiences behind their thoughts. But that only means they’re thinking without the restrictions of common societal doctrines. The young people of today are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, so maybe we should give them a bit more credit.
On a recent volume of Psychology of Entrepreneurship, I spoke with Katie Acheson, co-founder and CEO of Numbers and People Synergy. Katie is a passionate youth advocate and is constantly urging the world’s thought leaders to include the opinions of young people.
“I’m very passionate about young people having a say in what happens in the world and decision-makers listening to them as experts,” she says.
Thinking Without Restrictions
Those of us that can’t be considered a “young person” anymore, have all these limits and restrictions on our thinking. Whether you realise or not, society’s rules impart subconscious boundaries in our minds. Young people haven’t developed these boundaries yet. Their thoughts and ideas are essentially limitless. “What young people have shown us, and consistently show us, is that everything is changeable and moveable,” Katie explained. “We can change the way we think about things if we just have the right discussions.”
Think about when you were young. Dreaming didn’t seem like dreaming. Those ideas seemed entirely attainable. In fact, there were no question as to whether they were or not. Boundless dreaming is something we never even consider as adults. It’s all about what’s realistic and what isn’t. But who is to say what’s realistic or not? It wasn’t too long along that same-sex marriage seemed an impossibility. Or equal rights. Or America having a Black president. Who are we to say what’s possible or not?
Listening to Learn
In movies and TV shows, people of wisdom are always depicted as old people who have lived long, meaningful lives. They drop little nuggets of insight or tell detailed, poignant tales from days gone by. There is so much to learn from our elders, but what about young people? They have yet to be knocked down by life. They have yet to experience significant heartache, disappointment and failures. Their musings are free from self-doubt, free from viewing the world as a concept you can fit into a certain box. Call me crazy, but it seems like a young person would be one hell of a teacher. And like Katie says, “Every human has something to teach us.”
Sometimes, as adults, we need to check our ego at the door, especially when talking to young people. Instead of just waiting in a break in the conversation to tell them something meaningless like “You’ll understand when you’re older,” maybe we should listen. And learn.
In an article in Psychology Today, it is stated that “adolescents feel valued when what they have to say is treated as worth listening to. Truly listening sends a powerful message about valuing the teenager.” A valued teen is going to grow into a valued adult, and we all know how feeling valued can completely change your motivation and drive. If young people are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, let’s make sure they feel valued today. There’s no time to waste.
Permission to be Outspoken
The Psychology Today article continues to explain that listening to teenagers helps shape their communication skills. “When parents listen, their interest encourages the adolescent to communicate. They give the young person permission to practice declaring themselves – stating feelings, beliefs, questions, needs, wants, disagreements, and limits.”
So by listening to young people, we’re giving them permission to be outspoken adults. I consider myself an outspoken introvert if that’s a thing. But I wasn’t given permission to speak my mind as a teenager, at least I didn’t feel like I had permission to. Sure, I ended up being an entrepreneur anyway. But I still wonder what conversations I might have had if I had felt included and valued in that way.
So let’s encourage young people to speak their minds. Let’s not dismiss their ideas as naive or immature. Instead, let’s listen to them, really listen. Because the young people of today are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. And I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
For more of my conversation with Katie Acheson, check out Volume 66 of Psychology of Entrepreneurship.
Author: Kaili Bonnyman
Kaili is the Queen of Audio at Must Amplify.