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

Deborah Tannen
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 12 2001
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.

Frequently Bought Together

You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation + That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships + Talking From 9 To 5
Price For All Three: CDN$ 35.19

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Product Description

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Tannen combines a novelist's ear for the way people speak with a rare power of original analysis ... fascinating OLIVER SACKS --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It may not be a guy thing (or a girl thing) Jan. 2 2001
One of the things I've noticed about books like this is that the author comes up with a "matrix" of different, usually opposing, characteristics (in this case, human behaviour), then uses that matrix to explain *all* the differences in behaviour. Here Tannen expresses every described conflict between men and women *solely* in terms of gender differences. SOme are, some aren't.
Books like this sound very plausible when you are reading them, but then if you read another similar book, you notice that the second author uses an entirely different set of "parameters" for their own matrix (which is quite plausible when you're reading it as well). Trouble is, the two matrices that sound so compelling are totally incompatible and in fact contradict each other.
Moral of the story: it doesn't have to be accurate, it just has to be plausible enough to get a publishing deal.
Good case in point: Tannen mentions the trouble she had with a new computer purchase. The first time she took it back to the shop, the repairman was very unhelpful and spouted a bunch of gibberish at her. Later, she took the computer back and talked to one of the saleswomen, who solved her problem. Conclusion: men are unfriendly and one-uppers, while women are helpful and nurturing.
Problem is, I've known many women who act like the uncommunicative repairman. And I've seen many males who are very helpful and can easily help solve people's problems.
So this wasn't a male-female difference that Tannen experienced, it was simply that the first person she encountered (who happened to be male) was a very technically oriented type; he probably wasn't trying to be rude or unhelpful, he was just not too great at verbal interaction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Everyone!!!!! March 16 2004
Deborah Tannen has earned the Honor of having "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation" placed along side the ONLY other book that I currently own. The other book is "The Elements of Style"; by Strunk & White. Don't get me wrong; I read incessantly, but rarely keep any of the books that I purchase or borrow. I believe the two (2) books referenced above should be required reading for every American. Period! I won't pretend to know what age would be approriate or most effective for Ms. Tannen's book, but it certainly would go a long way in solving many of today's communication problems between ALL people. I primarily base my opinion of this book on: 1)my having read it, and 2)my having learned the hard way what this book lays out for you in plain English. I managed a team of 12 Finance professionals in NYC for 10+ years; consisting of men & woman of various ages, nationalities, and religions. In time, I learned how to effectively manage such a diverse group by gaining an undrstanding of how each person interelated with everyone else. I HIGHLY recommend this book!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Made me think, but missed the mark. Feb. 23 2004
The main thing that I give the book credit for is that it made me think about things that I do as a man and try to come up with my own explanations for my behavior, since hers clearly didn't resonate with me. I like to think of myself as "not a typical guy"; most of my women friends would agree. Yet I did recognize my own behavior in some of Tannen's examples. However, when she went on to explain why men do these things, it made me ponder my childhood relationships with other boys and, well, it wasn't anything like what she said. To be sure, there are boys/men who see the world in the binary one-up/one-down way that she describes. We've all met "super-alpha" men like this: the proverbial high-pressure salesman... the man who, upon entering a room where people are conversing, instantly creates a crowd. This isn't the way most boys/men are; some, certainly, but not most.
Also, the assumption that men are universally combative is incorrect. I think a more accurate picture of most boys growing up is that we find ourselves unwillingly placed into competition by bullies/super-alpha boys. I found myself picked on or challenged constantly in my childhood, when, all I really wanted was just to get along with everybody and not have people hassle me. I think most guys would nod their heads with me on this one. This, for me, is a much better explanation why men see people as challenging them where women do not, as men are hypersensitive to such challenges... and if you failed to rise to the challenge, you were humiliated by the bully's gang in front of your peers.
Boys too wanted to be accepted by their peers, and thrived on community. This explains the popularity of team sports among men.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Family Issues Broken Down Dec 8 2003
Communication is the greatest aspect to a good relationship. Without communication, a relationship can lack are understanding, feelings, and where a person may stand in life...towards the other person. Nevertheless, where does communication falls when it comes to family. Take for instance your oldest son has a dream he wants to pursue. With this, he feels he is confident about himself, and sure that he is capable of achieving this goal. On the other hand, you know your child is incompetent of doing this because he lacks the talent. Now you have to choose between telling the truth... letting facts be known or keeping quiet... letting him engage on this dream. Let us think about this; is it all right to lye to a person to save their feelings knowing in the end things will fall apart? Alternatively, is it ok to tell the truth in the beginning to save them from embarrassment and humiliation in the end?
Many different scenarios can take place in a family were communication becomes a problem. Whether it is telling the truth to: save embarrassment, family gossiping, family secrets, control, etc. The list of the scenarios goes on and on. However, all confrontation comes about for two reasons. One reason is one person does not know what are the message given is, but went towards the metamessage, and explodes. I know your wondering what message and metamessage are. Well, "message is the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what everyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out. Metamessage is not said- at least not in so many words- but that we garner from every aspect of context." Take this into prime example and see whether you can figure out what is the message, and the metamessage are. "Do you really need another piece of cake? Donna asks George.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It's in good condition. very good book
Published 1 month ago by Wei
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I read this book many years ago and decided to reread it recently. Still fascinating and very helpful in understanding communication differences. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Raven
5.0 out of 5 stars great
easy to read alone or with your spouse, sheds light on the ways in which the opposite sex communicate and is helpful
Published 21 months ago by Jaime
4.0 out of 5 stars Think Before You Speak
Wow! This book is an eye opener not only for communication at work but in personal relationships as well. Read more
Published on July 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars You Just Don't Understand
After reading this book I realized how it relates to my daily life and conversations. I agree with what Tannen says, females talk with their friends more intimately than males do. Read more
Published on March 14 2004 by Jen
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Issues Being Broke Down
Communication is the greatest aspect to a good relationship. Without communication, a relationship can lack are understanding, feelings, and where a person may stand in... Read more
Published on Dec 8 2003 by Theresa Nichols
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Review by Yarith Calito
"Smart and Intriguing for the minds of those incapable of understanding the opposite sex," Yarith Calito (Wayne State University)
When I read the title of this book I was not... Read more
Published on Dec 8 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars The Difference in Understanding
The Difference in Understanding
Do men and women really interpret each other differently when speaking or expressing a thought? Read more
Published on Dec 8 2003 by Alina Lazarean
5.0 out of 5 stars Complementary schismogenesis
This is a book of sociolinguistics and is also suitable for the general reader. What is more interesting than how men and women talk? Gender research is controversial. Read more
Published on Oct. 16 2003 by Mary E. Sibley
1.0 out of 5 stars If you have an ounce of common sense, you don't need this.
Everything in Ms. Tannen's world is apparently black and white as far as gender goes. Little girls play with dolls, boys play sports. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003 by Botia
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