You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

( 12 )

Overview

Women and men live in different worlds...made of different words.

Spending nearly four years on the New York Times bestseller list, including eight months at number one, You Just Don't Understand is a true cultural and intellectual phenomenon. This is the book that brought gender differences in ways of speaking to the forefront of public awareness. With a rare combination of scientific insight and delightful, humorous writing, Tannen shows why women and men can walk away from ...

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Overview

Women and men live in different worlds...made of different words.

Spending nearly four years on the New York Times bestseller list, including eight months at number one, You Just Don't Understand is a true cultural and intellectual phenomenon. This is the book that brought gender differences in ways of speaking to the forefront of public awareness. With a rare combination of scientific insight and delightful, humorous writing, Tannen shows why women and men can walk away from the same conversation with completely different impressions of what was said.

Studded with lively and entertaining examples of real conversations, this book gives you the tools to understand what went wrong — and to find a common language in which to strengthen relationships at work and at home. A classic in the field of interpersonal relations, this book will change forever the way you approach conversations.

Acclaimed sociolinguist Deborah Tannen uses telling examples ranging from real life to literary realism, as she stunningly demonstrates how--even in the closest relationships--women and men live in "different worlds."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Georgetown University linguistics professor Tannen here ponders gender-based differences that, she claims, define and distinguish male and female communication. Opening with the rationale that ignoring such differences is more dangerous than blissful, she asserts that for most women conversation is a way of connecting and negotiating. Thus, their parleys tend to center on expressions of and responses to feelings, or what the author labels ``rapport-talk'' private conversation. Men, on the other hand, use conversation to achieve or maintain social status; they set out to impart knowledge termed ``report-talk,'' or public speaking. Calling on her research into the workings of dialogue, Tannen examines the functioning of argument and interruption, and convincingly supports her case for the existence of ``genderlect,'' contending that the better we understand it, the better our chances of bridging the communications gap integral to the battle of the sexes. June
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060959623
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 92,544
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 10.62 (h) x 0.81 (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

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Different Words,
Different Worlds



Many years ago I was married to a man who shouted at me, "I do not give you the right to raise your voice to me, because you are a woman and I am a man." This was frustrating, because I knew it was unfair. But I also knew just what was going on. I ascribed his unfairness to his having grown up in a country where few people thought women and men might have equal rights.

Now I am married to a man who is a partner and friend. We come from similar backgrounds and share values and interests. It is a continual source of pleasure to talk to him. It is wonderful to have someone I can tell everything to, someone who understands. But he doesn't always see things as I do, doesn't always react to things as I expect him to. And I often don't understand why he says what he does.

At the time I began working on this book, we had jobs in different cities. People frequently expressed sympathy by making comments like "That must be rough," and "How do you stand it?" I was inclined to accept their sympathy and say things like "We fly a lot." Sometimes I would reinforce their concern: "The worst part is having to pack and unpack all the time." But my husband reacted differently, often with irritation. He might respond by de-emphasizing the inconvenience: As academics, we had four-day weekends together, as well as long vacations throughout the year and four months in the summer. We even benefited from the intervening days of uninterrupted time for work. I once overheard him telling a dubious man that we were lucky,since studies have shown that married couples who live together spend less than half an hour a week talking to each other; he was implying that our situation had advantages.

I didn't object to the way my husband responded — everything he said was true — but I was surprised by it. I didn't understand why he reacted as he did. He explained that he sensed condescension in some expressions of concern, as if the questioner were implying, "Yours is not a real marriage; your ill-chosen profession has resulted in an unfortunate arrangement. I pity you, and look down at you from the height of complacence, since my wife and I have avoided your misfortune." It had not occurred to me that there might be an element of one-upmanship in these expressions of concern, though I could recognize it when it was pointed out. Even after I saw the point, though, I was inclined to regard my husband's response as slightly odd, a personal quirk. He frequently seemed to see others as adversaries when I didn't.

Having done the research that led to this book, I now see that my husband was simply engaging the world in a way that many men do: as an individual in a hierarchical social order in which he was either one-up or one-down. In this world, conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can, and protect themselves from others' attempts to put them down and push them around. Life, then, is a contest, a struggle to preserve independence and avoid failure.

I, on the other hand, was approaching the world as many women do: as an individual in a network of connections. In this world, conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to seek and give confirmation and support, and to reach consensus. They try to protect themselves from others' attempts to push them away. Life, then, is a community, a struggle to preserve intimacy and avoid isolation. Though there are hierarchies in this world too, they are hierarchies more of friendship than of power and accomplishment.

Women are also concerned with achieving status and avoiding failure, but these are not the goals they are focused on all the time, and they tend to pursue them in the guise of connection. And men are also concerned with achieving involvement and avoiding isolation, but they are not focused on these goals, and they tend to pursue them in the guise of opposition.

Discussing our differences from this point of view, my husband pointed out to me a distinction I had missed: He reacted the way I just described only if expressions of concern came from men in whom he sensed an awareness of hierarchy. And there were times when I too disliked people's expressing sympathy about our commuting marriage. I recall being offended by one man who seemed to have a leering look in his eye when he asked, "How do you manage this long-distance romance?" Another time I was annoyed when a woman who knew me only by reputation approached us during the intermission of a play, discovered our situation by asking my husband where he worked, and kept the conversation going by asking us all about it. In these cases, I didn't feel put down; I felt intruded upon. If my husband was offended by what he perceived as claims to superior status, I felt these sympathizers were claiming inappropriate intimacy.

Intimacy and Independence


Intimacy is key in a world of connection where individuals negotiate complex networks of friendship, minimize differences, try to reach consensus, and avoid the appearance of superiority, which would highlight differences. In a world of status, independence is key, because a primary means of establishing status is to tell others what to do, and taking orders is a marker of low status. Though all humans need both intimacy and independence, women tend to focus on the first and men on the second. It is as if their lifeblood ran in different directions.

These differences can give women and men differing views of the same situation, as they did in the case of a couple I will call Linda and Josh...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    Informative

    I read the book for a research paper I was writing. I found the book informative but hard to relate to my own life. However it was a great book towards my paper.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2013

    Lucid and irrudite

    Better than "Men are fro Mars.." by lightyears.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    Very Insightful

    This probably needs to be listened to a few times, as I was multi-tasking while listening and missed specific details during a few situational events. This audiobook provides numerous examples of various interactive situations between couples, providing insight to what the women and men are thinking. It is obvious, after listening to this book, that most men and women think about a specific situation differently. The only knock is the narrator's outdated sounding voice, but if you can get past that then you can gain some valuable insight on the other's (woman or man) perspective.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2006

    Not what I had expected

    I thought this book was very biased and only looked at the side of men as being powerful and having complete dominance over women which is certainly not true in life. This book also talked about how there are not many successful women, which again, is not true at all because there are plenty of women out there that have poisitions of authority in business and are taken seriously. Altogether, I was just not very impressed by this reading because I guess I had thought that it would have more of a story line to it but it mainly consisted of just facts and dialogue examples. In conclusion, this book just wasn't what I had expected.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2004

    Hear More Clearly

    Wow! This book is an eye opener not only for communication at work but in personal relationships as well. A worthwhile read for any man who has wondered just what he said wrong and for any woman who finds herself puzzled by the men who just don't 'get it.' Take the lessons to heart and your life will be running more smoothly in no time. Another book I enjoyed is Rat Race Relaxer: Your Potential & The Maze of Life by JoAnna Carey which helps you communicate what you want in return for running the rat race.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2003

    Extremely insightful

    I had to order this novel for a psychology class at my college..I've never learned and have applied so much knowledge to my life before, all from a book we had to read for class!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2003

    Another politically correct view on male communication

    At first glance, her theory is seemingly fair. But after digesting it all, you get the feeling that there is a negative connotation attached to the way men communicate. I'm not sure this is a fair or just method to judge others by...however I admit one can learn more about the way the sexes communicate.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2002

    Tries hard to be fair

    but fails. Ultimately, stereotyping men's and women's styles as "status vs connection" is inherently judgemental: one never uses 'connection-seeking' as an insult in the way one uses 'status-seeking', few of us resist connection and many of us resent and resist status. It is also really no help to anyone, since we already have the assumption women are sweet and men are aggressive drummed into us from infancy. She does clarify the statement, and she gives good proof that her clarification is a better form than the unrefined original. But if she really thought what she keeps saying in the book, that neither style is inherently better than the other, she could not follow this up with another book (The Argument Culture) that basically attacks the male style, which is already the one people judge negatively.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2000

    Very interesting account of communication differences!

    Tannen gives plenty of concrete examples all of us should be able to identify with on how reasoning differences and psychological factors clear communication obstacles between men and women with global implications across all socioeconomic strata.Can it be that major problems in society can have their roots in misunderstandings?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Or why men and women are different

    Interesting study of the problems generated by failed interpersonal communications between men and women because of psychological ,cultural and other factors with concrete,every day examples of common areas where men andwomen fail to clearly communicate by a Georgetown University scholar.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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