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Why Do Some People Automatically Think That They Are Older & More Experienced Without Even Interacting?

Growfast's recent post made me realise that sometimes people look at your face and immediately think they are older & more experienced.

For example, I met a vocal coach a few months ago, and he immediately assumed that he was older than me.

I'm thinking that this is a power move and status-protecting behaviour.

For example, I approached someone in a networking behaviour before:

Me: (approaches 2 people conversing)

Him: corporate (extends hands) (being intentionally vague)

Me: M&A?  (shakes hands)

Him: Wow, young people nowadays are really smart (looks at the other guy)

Huge power move and then kind of ignored me.
So I left and talked to someone else.
Then, I re-opened the conversation again later and we had a conversation.

This was a few years ago so I couldn't remember how the conversation went exactly.
But I remember the person because he was very dominant and was an executive at a big firm.

I had to refute the frame that he is more senior than me.
He had more respect for me only then, and we could start talking about topics.
Though he kept wanting to be the more dominant one in the interaction.

I have spent more time thinking about this topic.

My guess is that some older people

  • leverage their perceived age to signal experience
  • want to keep their power and status after climbing in a social pond
  • want to flip the script that younger people have the advantage like Ronald Reagan

Usually, mentors naturally would have a bias to think of themselves as more experienced and possibly older.
Although my pronunciation coach is younger than me but much more experienced in voice and pronunciation.

The people who use this strategy to push down other people by framing them as "young and less experienced" are commonly

  • those who have been stuck in a social pond for very long (a corporate environment, a company, organisation, social circle, etc)
  • people in social environments where they have a culture of "paying your dues"
  • people who climb corporate ladders rather than go for the entrepreneurial path
  • people who are less open-minded and have a greater degree of a fixed mindset

Lucio did mention in Power University that older people sometimes want appreciation for their work over the years.
Although I did see some lazy, old people when I was working in some companies.

What I have to say is that I don't encounter this move nowadays as often.
In the past, I was less power-aware.
So it has probably to be dominant/submissive signals coupled with responding to social situations by reading power dynamics well.

If you have any thoughts and find this topic interesting, that will help me a lot :).

I think Growfast's situation was different.

There is a widespread value that younger generation should respect older ones. And in some cultures, it's more pronounced than others.

When older people feel younger ones aren't being enough respectful or deferential, they remind them of the age gap to either put them back in their place, to frame them as rude and antisocial, and/or to get the deference they want.

And in general, the age/experience thing is often leveraged as a power move to silence someone.

Sometimes it's a power move.

And some other times, it's fair to remind someone -or people around- that a beginner or too young guy is talking out of his ass, if he indeed he is.
And people with longer experience (or life-experience because of the years they've lived) can, sometimes, offer more value and better advice than others.
So it's contextual.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

From Lucio's Journal, #131

Owner: young man (I guess I look younger than my actual age, specially when clean shaven), easy, take it easy

I feel that this was one of those instances:

And in general, the age/experience thing is often leveraged as a power move to silence someone.

I find that it's a cheap shot, especially when the commenter doesn't know the other person's age.
And sometimes the commenter is actually younger ...