That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships

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Overview

At home, on the job, in a personal relationship, it's often not what you say but how you say it that counts.

Deborah Tannen revolutionized our thinking about relationships between women and men in her #1 bestseller You Just Don't Understand. In That's Not What I Meant!, the internationally renowned sociolinguist and expert on communication demonstrates how our conversational signals—voice level, pitch and intonation, rhythm and timing, even the simple turns of phrase we ...

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That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships

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Overview

At home, on the job, in a personal relationship, it's often not what you say but how you say it that counts.

Deborah Tannen revolutionized our thinking about relationships between women and men in her #1 bestseller You Just Don't Understand. In That's Not What I Meant!, the internationally renowned sociolinguist and expert on communication demonstrates how our conversational signals—voice level, pitch and intonation, rhythm and timing, even the simple turns of phrase we choose—are powerful factors in the success or failure of any relationship. Regional speech characteristics, ethnic and class backgrounds, age, and individual personality all contribute to diverse conversational styles that can lead to frustration and misplaced blame if ignored—but provide tools to improve relationships if they are understood.

At once eye-opening, astute, and vastly entertaining, Tannen's classic work on interpersonal communication will help you to hear what isn't said and to recognize how your personal conversational style meshes or clashes with others. It will give you a new understanding of communication that will enable you to make the adjustments that can save a conversation . . . or a relationship.

That's Not What I Meant is a unique new guide to remedying relationships with easy-to-understand explanations of how we say what we say.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Part pop psychology, part sociology and part anthropology, this book by a linguistics professor at Georgetown University focuses on the uncomfortable moments when a conversation inexplicably breaks down, and suggests how such awkwardness can be avoided. Noting that there exist a plethora of books on public speaking, Tannen instead considers ``private speaking,'' and particularly the ``metamessages'' we transmitwhat we say, our attitude toward those we speak with, and the specific occasioninvolving such elements as loudness, pitch and intonation. Using scenarios that illustrate communication gaps, Tannen also attempts to show readers how to save their marriages and triumph in job interviews. BOMC alternate. January 17
Library Journal
Tannen, whose field is cross-cultural linguistics, focuses on conversational style rather than psychological content, and explains why good intentions are not enough. We begin all conversations with some expectation of how they will progress. If our expectations differ, unexpected responses seem irrational, and we may accuse each other of being deliberately obstructive. She emphasizes that there are no right or wrong ways to converse, only ways which work or don't work. By recognizing differences in style, and learning to work with them rather than against them, we can avoid misunderstanding. Tannen's writing is lively, she states her case clearly, and provides a fresh look at a subject which concerns us all. Recommended for popular collections. Margaret B. Allen, formerly with Bennington Free Lib., Vt.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062062994
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/5/2011
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 141,638
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Tannen

Deborah Tannen is Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Her books include the New York Times bestsellers You Just Don't Understand, You're Wearing THAT?, Talking from 9 to 5, and You Were Always Mom's Favorite!. She has written for and been featured in numerous major newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, the Washington Post, and Time.

Biography

In 2001, Deborah Tannen published a book that explored the eternally complex relationship between men and women, specifically why communication can be so darn difficult between the sexes. You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation clearly struck a chord with its readers, spending nearly four years on the New York Times bestseller list (holding the No. 1 spot for eight weeks) and having been translated into 29 languages. Bolstered by Tannen's extensive experience as a linguist, You Just Don't Understand has played a significant role in improving relations between men and women throughout the world.

Tannen followed her breakthrough work with several others that have tackled the difficulties in improving communication on the job (Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work), the source of argumentativeness (The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words), and general disagreements within families (I Only Say This Because I Love You). Now Tannen is turning her attention to improving communications between two groups that share one of the most complicated relationships of all: mothers and daughters.

You're Wearing That?: Understanding Daughters and Mothers in Conversation is yet another ambitious attempt to examine, understand, and resolve the long-standing communication difficulties that so often plague families. Tannen delineated the nature of the particularly thorny interactions between mothers and daughters in an article she recently wrote for The Washington Post. In her article, Tannen stated that "there is a special intensity to the mother-daughter relationship because talk -- particularly talk about personal topics -- plays a larger and more complex role in girls' and women's social lives than in boys' and men's. For girls and women, talk is the glue that holds a relationship together -- and the explosive that can blow it apart. That's why you can think you're having a perfectly amiable chat, then suddenly find yourself wounded by the shrapnel from an exploded conversation."

You're Wearing That? is her attempt to defuse such potential explosiveness, to get to the root of why daughters and mothers so often hit walls when relating to one another. Tannen's own strained relationship with her ailing mother was part of the impetus that caused her to begin asking the questions that this insightful book strives to answer. Along the way, she explored not only her own relationship with her mother but those of many others, as well. "I interviewed dozens of women of varied geographic, racial and cultural backgrounds," she explained in her article. "I had informal conversations or e-mail exchanges with countless others. The complaint I heard most often from daughters was, ‘My mother is always criticizing me.' The corresponding complaint from mothers was, ‘I can't open my mouth. She takes everything as criticism.' Both are right, but each sees only her perspective."

Once again, Tannen has proven her skills as a great communicator, and has penned another instant classic in the field of self-improvement. You're Wearing That? has already achieved bestseller status and inspired Miriam Wolf of the San Francisco Chronicle to call it "a book any mother would be proud her daughter wrote." Tannen should surely be proud that she has made such a significant and positive impact on those who have read her work.

Good To Know

Make no mistake: Deborah Tannen is not just another self-help guru. She has published an impressive body of work that includes 20 books and over 100 articles. She is also the recipient of five honorary doctorates.

Tannen may be most famous for her linguistics studies, but she has also published short stories, poems, personal essays, and plays. In fact, her first play, An Act of Devotion, was chosen for inclusion in The Best American Short Plays: 1993-1994.

The sage relationship advice that Tannen has imparted is not limited to the printed page. She has also lectured all over the world, once addressing an audience of U.S. senators and their spouses.

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Tannen:

"I lived in Greece for several years; I speak Greek and consider Greece my second home. The first book I ever wrote was literary criticism about a modern Greek writer, Lilika Nakou."

"One of the most exciting experiences I have ever had was seeing a play I wrote produced by Horizons Theater in Washington, D.C. Another was having my play An Act of Devotion accepted and published in Best American Short Plays 1993-1994."

"I didn't start grad school in linguistics until I was 30. When I graduated from college, I had no ambitions other than to travel and not to go grad school. I worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in Manhattan, lived with my parents in Brooklyn, and saved my money to go to Europe on a one-way ticket. My plan was to go around the world. But I got only as far as Greece, where I got a job teaching English. It was through teaching English as a second language that I first became aware of linguistics."

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C. metro area
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 7, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harpur College, 1966, Wayne State University, 1970; M.A. in Linguistics, UC Berkeley, 1976; Ph.D., 1979

Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

I Linguistics And Conversational Style 15

1 The Problem Is The Process 17

2 The Workings Of Conversational Style 29

3 Conversational Signals And Devices 45

Part I Conversational Signals 47

Part II Conversational Devices At Work 54

II Conversational Strategies 63

4 Why We Don't Say What We Mean 65

Part I Why We Won't Say What We Mean 66

Part II Why We Can't Say What We Mean 71

5 Framing And Reframing 82

6 Power And Solidarity 101

III Talking At Home: Conversational Style in Close Relationships 119

7 Why Things Get Worse 121

8 Talk In The Intimate Relationship: His And Hers 133

9 The Intimate Critic 152

IV What You Can And Can't Do With Conversational Style 175

10 Talking About Ways Of Talking 177

Notes 201

Bibliography 206

Index 209

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2002

    Great Book !!!

    That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. Deborah Tannen explains how something very small we said can turn a whole conversation upside down, bringing the opposite result of what we expected. Be it between friends, lovers, or even diplomatic ambassadors, she shows how the way we talk, anything from the tone we say a word to a single finger's gesture can change completely the meaning of our talk, and gives advice and suggestions on how to talk better and have more successful communication with everyone around us. What Tannen does in this book is show how some of the common communication differences between men and women in relationships have their basis in fundamental differences in the way men and women perceive each other and relationships in general. And furthermore, that these fundamental differences, often hidden below the surface, can have profound, and often negative, effects on all kinds of relationships throughout a person's life, unless they are brought into the light of day. In effect, what Tannen is trying to do is to get people to be more aware of how they habitually communicate, the possible reasons why they communicate in those ways, and how the things they say and do may affect others. I strongly recommend this book for both men and women in ongoing close relationships. Once you have read it, you will never see communication in your relationships in quite the same way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

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