What Does Postmodern Mean?

I was talking with a 20-something friend and tossed out the phrase “postmodern.” His ears perked up and he asked what it meant.

“You’re postmodern,” I spontaneously asserted.

“I know; that’s what people tell me,” he replied, “but what’s it mean?”What Does Postmodern Mean?

“First there is one aspect of postmodernity that doesn’t fit you,” I clarified. “Most postmoderns do not accept absolute truth; to them all things are relative. The only thing they accept with absolute certainty is that there are no absolutes.” (Don’t think about that too long—it will give you a headache!) Postmodern is not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset Click To Tweet

“The rest of the profile seems to match you,” I continued. “In general, postmodern people value relationships and relish experiences—for them, the ‘journey is the reward.’ They want work that is fulfilling and allows them to make a difference in the world, but they guardedly balance work with their personal life. They tend to not be materialistic and money doesn’t mean as much to them as a ‘modern’ person. They are decidedly non-religious, but are quite open to spirituality and metaphysical dialogue.”

He agreed with my assessment that he was postmodern.”And what about you?” he asked.

There is a propensity for younger generations to be postmodern and generations people—like me—to be modern. It’s not a life stage phenomenon, but more a lifelong mindset. Being on the tail end of the baby boom generation, I should be modern, but in reality, “I skew towards postmodern.” He smiled at that; I guess that’s why we get along so well.

If you work with or manage postmodern people (typically generation Y or the Millennials, born after 1984), you will likely be challenged beyond anything you’ve experienced.  Keeping this brief overview in mind, might help you to better understand them. But don’t assume they think and act like you (unless you’re also postmodern) or you’ll never really connect with them.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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