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

I learned some more things about the differences between men and women by reading this book, which was a #1 national best seller in 1991. She is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. She doesn't deal with the structure of the male brain or the female brain. She just studies people's speech patterns and the underlying strategies for verbal communication implied by those patterns. She has noted that people with different strategies have trouble communicating. In a previous book she explored some of the different approaches to verbal communication that certain nationalities and ethnic groups have and the difficulties and misunderstandings that arise when people from different groups try to converse. In the present book, she explores male and female modes of conversing in the same was as she explored other groups in her earlier book.

It doesn't matter to her whether the reasons for the different styles are biological or environmental. She thinks that if we can learn the other person's verbal strategy, we can communicate with them better. I am not sure that it really helps, but it can't hurt.

The basic reason why men and women misunderstand each other is that they have different values and different goals which affect no only their actions but their conversational styles as well. Men and women converse for different reasons. Here are some of the differences between men and women that Ms Tanner says cause miscommunication.

Ms Tannen calls the feminine mode of conversing "rapport-talk," because women's goal in conversing is to build rapport--to advance the personal relationship between the parties. She calls the masculine mode of conversing "report-talk," because men's goal in conversing is to exchange information. Of course men often talk to establish rapport and women often talk to communicate information. And it often happens that men and women speak on the same wavelength (use the same mode of conversing in the same conversation). Not all conversations between men and women fail. But a lot of them do, and Ms Tannen's book helps to explain why.

Year Read: 1992


Back to Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday
Back to Nonfiction Book Notes
Back to Fiction Book Notes
Back to Book Notes by Author

This page was last updated on October 14, 2011.
This site is maintained by Roy Halliday. If you have any comments or suggestions, please send them to royhalliday@mindspring.com.