When you can’t even drag a millennial to the polls

Where persuasion is, let empathy be

You know the saying, you can drag a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In the case of millennials, you can’t even drag them to the voting polls.

If you want to get a millennial to do anything, especially if you’re over the age of 50, much less over the age of 70, don’t try to convince or persuade them.


Because it’s not going to work.


Because they have good reasons to be suspicious, skeptical and cynical and don’t want to take another chance in believing something or believing in something just to be left feeling foolish and then angry for having done so.

So how do you get through to millennials if you’re over 50?

To do that, it’s less important what you tell them than what it is you enable them to tell you, where they actually feel not just heard, but heard out. Not just understood, but empathized with. Not just blown off, but considered with their thoughts and concerns being not merely addressed but leading to actual, positive, observable and sustainable (vs. short lived patronizing hollow gestures) actions.

It’s not that difficult to hear, understand, empathize, consider and take some action on what’s on their minds and in their hearts.

All it takes is focusing on what they’re listening for.

When you as a 50+ person, pause, and listen with an open, beginner’s (i.e. agendaless) mind, what you may discover millennials are listening for is:

1. A reason to believe where they won’t feel foolish for having done so.

2. A reason to do something that they won’t regret.

3. And most importantly a reason to feel legitimately and realistically hopeful, because underneath all the anger they are exhausted and beleaguered with feeling so uncertain, unsafe and unhopeful about their present circumstances and their futures.

If you’re over 50 and you’re now the one who’s skeptical and cynical about such an approach, because you’re much more comfortable trying to convince and so utterly clueless about how to pull such an approach off, let me demonstrate… and I’m over 70.

Dear millennials,

Do you agree or disagree with the following:

How do I know that, because deep down inside skeptics and cynics, although it may temporarily be energizing to rail against the establishment, over time it is exhausting, dispiriting and in the end can drive you to feeling, “What’s the point? Why bother? Why even care?”

Before you’re willing to take an action that we’d like you to take, i.e. vote, is it first important to you that we understand, empathize, feel for and take responsibility for having driven you into that skeptical and cynical view by creating so much uncertainty, unsafety and hopelessness?

Furthermore, if we do that, is it then important that we demonstrate remorse vs. hollow regret and then take corrective measures that we sustain instead of merely putting “lipstick on your pain,” so that you will dare to have hope without yet feeling foolish again for giving us another chance only to disappoint or deceive you?

Finally, do you want us to understand that if we bait you into voting this November 3 and we then do a “bait and ditch,” that it will be nearly impossible for us to get you to vote or believe in anything again?

If you agree with the above prerequisites that you’re asking of us, conditions accepted.

Thank you for giving us another chance to believe in our system and we will do everything in our power to not mess it up again. And if we do, you have every right to come after us.

With sincerest apologies,

The Baby Boomer Generation

Dr. Goulston is co-founder of Michelangelo Mindset, a speaker, MG100 Coach & the author of "Just Listen,” the top book on listening in the world.