Some years ago I found myself having what turned out to be an interesting and illuminating conversation with a couple of millennials on Twitter. It turned out to be this way because it started out badly but ended well.

Modern business: Brainstorming
Kevin Dooley via Compfight

One of my online friends shared a link to something where I'd heard the term bandied about but had no idea what it meant. The term was "gamergate", and overall it involved the issue of whether some video game reviewers were being paid or given other favors to write positive stories about their games.

In its own way it morphed into an additional story about the mistreatment of women in these games. A sidebar activity became attacks on specific women who were either considered a part of gamergate or had come out against video games for their portrayal of women.

I read the story and decided to retweet the link. The part I found disturbing was how these women had threats of violence against them, including death, and how one lady had to cancel a presentation at a university because someone wrote and said they would commit a massacre and kill as many people as possible if she spoke. That part disturbed me more than anything else, so I shared the link and said I found it all abhorrent.

That's when I got into a discussion with a couple of millennials whom I'd never met. They were coming out and supporting the gaming industry, and quite vehemently at that. I wrote back saying the problem I had was the threats against women. For some reason they didn't believe me and it became a back and forth slugfest for a short period of time, although I was dodging and being somewhat sarcastic and accusatory while one of the two was using some fairly bad language.

When the other said there hadn't been any name calling I referred him to look back at the thread. He saw it and said he was wrong because I had indeed been called a couple of names. I saw this as an opportunity and said that obviously all of us had missed what the other was trying to say, which can be a major problem on Twitter since back then we were limited to 140 characters.

The calmer of the two asked me to state my position again, so I did. I said that I wasn't a gamer and didn't really care about gaming. But I did care about threats against women and how trying to stop them from having their points of view would do nothing but prove what they said about gaming and how women are portrayed was true. I stated once more that the only thing I really did care about was how the women were being treated and that it was going to take some gamers to help stop the madness.

At that point the entire conversation changed. Both were more considerate and more reasoned, agreeing with my position and saying how they and many of their friends have been condemned en masse by lots of people who didn't even try to talk to them and that they appreciated that I was taking the time to hear their side and explain mine. I said I apologized for overlooking their statements because I was so concerned with the misogyny that I wasn't paying attention to their defense of gaming in general.

I don't know that I'd say we parted as friends, but we did part on friendly terms. I'm not even sure why I decided to take a stand and then try to have a reasoned discussion with them at the time, but as I thought about it I realized that way too often we hear of the gap between baby boomers and millennials trying to communicate with each other and how it's almost impossible to have a reasoned discussion, even in the workplace. I guess I wanted to see if that was true or not.

Nope, it's not true. The lesson is to be open to finding a way to diffuse tense situations, look for an opportunity to present your case, and be willing to defer your own thoughts for a while and see what the other side is saying, then take it into consideration.

Neither side is ever going to be perfect on this communication front, and at the end of things there might not be full agreement with anything the other side says. But sometimes it's more important to give it a try to see if two parties can come together somehow, even if it's to reasonably disagree with each other.

Do you believe there's a communication gap between generations? Is it all that drastic if you believe so? Have you found ways of bridging the gap when it's important?