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


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

ISBN13: 9780060959623
ISBN10: 0060959622
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.


This fascinating, helpful, and controversial book--on the "New York Times" Bestseller list for two years--explores, in depth the differing style men and women articulate, and how to work through it and get to the heart of the matter.

About the Author

Deborah Tannen is author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (a New York Times bestseller nearly four years), That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships, and many other books and articles. University Professor and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, she has also been McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University.

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OneMansView, December 5, 2008 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Interesting gender-based models of conversation (3.75*s)

The author, a sociolinguist, maintains that the importance of having successful conversations in all areas of our lives requires that we be aware of fundamental differences in the way in which men and women converse and relate. She admits that there is a certain amount of stereotyping in her arguments because numerous individuals, whether it be due to factors of class, ethnicity, intellect, age, economic standing, social position, psychological health, etc, do not conform to her gender-specific conversational models.

There is little doubt that communication styles are culturally learned, first within families and then from peer groups. She notes that children invariably play in same-sex groups and at a very early age begin to exhibit distinctly different communication styles along gender lines, which are reinforced and refined through adulthood.

The author’s model for female conversation focuses on their desire to connect to other women in a mutually supportive manner essentially as equals, sharing intimate concerns, secrets, gossip, and the like. On the other hand, men eschew such closeness and seek to maintain their independence and status in a hierarchical world. Friendships for men are largely based on shared activities and oftentimes playful aggressiveness. For women, seeking help is a request for understanding and support, whereas for men, requesting or seeking help is played out on a scale of dominance and competence. To help is to give advice and enhance superiority, while the requestor’s status falls. Women can see long-winded advice as non-supportive, while men typically don’t see as helping lengthy discussions of feelings about troubles.

The author explores the issue of who talks more, women or men. Location is key. Women greatly prefer small, private settings where rapport can be established. It’s hardly surprising that women are frequently the primary conversationalists in families, the ultimate private setting. However, men endeavor to enhance status outside the home, in public settings including the workplace, where impersonal information is the currency used. For women, the lack of intimacy in the public realm inhibits their preferred conversational mode. Conversely, men view the home as a place where status does not need to be constantly established and is a haven from unnecessary talking.

It is interesting that either men or women are often not viewed favorably when they dare to adopt the conversational style of the opposite gender. The female boss is probably the outstanding example. Men resent an aggressive female, when they are not in a position of being able to compete for dominance. On the other hand, many men dislike consensus-building approaches that require a lot of talk, especially of a personal nature.

Any model of complex human behavior will fall short, as the use of language most assuredly is. However, there usually is some truth in stereotypes and that is case with the author’s gender-based conversational models. Undoubtedly men and women that rigidly conform to these models would have trouble communicating, as the book repeatedly captures. However, most people are more flexible; they subtly negotiate and adapt their interactions beyond these stereotypical models. The book is interesting and could be a wakeup call for those who are misreading their partners.
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Product Details

Women and Men in Conversation
Tannen, Deborah
by Deborah Tannen
William Morrow Paperbacks
New York
Interpersonal Relations
Interpersonal communication
Communication in marriage
Sex differences (psychology)
Sex differences
Communication Studies
Child Care and Parenting-General
Edition Number:
1st Quill ed.
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.06x5.36x.85 in. .58 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Business » Communication
Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » General
Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Communication
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Relationships
History and Social Science » Intercultural Communications » General
History and Social Science » Linguistics » Sociolinguistics

You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation New Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060959623 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , This fascinating, helpful, and controversial book--on the "New York Times" Bestseller list for two years--explores, in depth the differing style men and women articulate, and how to work through it and get to the heart of the matter.

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