So what if they’re younger than you?
Many of you may not know that I wasn’t born and brought up in Canada. If we’ve had a few decent conversations, I’ve likely mentioned it – it usually comes up. Just to recap, I was born in India – in a small city at that – and I only moved to Toronto a few days before my 12th birthday. The move was quite a shock and definitely an adjustment, but that’s a story for another time. What I wanted to write about today was the idea of age when referring to wisdom, knowledge and experience.
As students in India, we were taught to refer to our teachers as either Ma’am or Sir – never by their names, let alone their first names. It was a way of showing respect and of indicating that they were our teachers, instructors and our elders. We were to do everything they told us to do, without questioning them or their authority. The rules that applied to us students obviously didn’t apply to them. The students were accountable to their teachers but the teachers were never to be held accountable by their students. But of course, we never felt like this one-sided relationship was wrong. Why? Because that was part of our culture as well – the same sort of rules applied to our elders at home.
And it’s true – of course, our elders do know more than us. They’ve experienced life for longer than we have and learned a lot more lessons than us. However, what’s wrong is the one-sided relationship. And this is something I love about the North American culture. Teachers ask students for feedback and employees hold their bosses accountable. There is a culture of learning from each other, no matter your age. Those more experienced and those who are elder to us still value our point of view. In fact, they often go a step further – they ask for our perspectives.
So I guess what I am trying to get at is this: just because someone is younger than you, doesn’t mean they don’t know any better. In many situations, they just might – you’ll never know until you have that conversation with them. Just because they’re younger, doesn’t mean they can’t inspire you or that you can’t learn much from them. I spent three days with my 10-year-old cousin and left feeling like I didn’t know enough about the world. I can spend hours talking to my 12-year-old family friend without getting bored and come out of the conversation having learnt something new each time. On a daily basis, I come across individuals younger than me on Twitter with endless amounts of knowledge, making me wish they could mentor and guide me!
In Mark Twain’s words:
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
So the next time someone younger than you wants to offer a suggestion or wants to try and help, forget the 8-year age gap and give them a chance. It can’t hurt. :)