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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 (53 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.

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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
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent April 28 2014
By Raven
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book many years ago and decided to reread it recently. Still fascinating and very helpful in understanding communication differences. She gives so many excellent examples and insights into the male female dynamic, plus broadens the discussion to look at cultural differences etc. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to find a bridge between the polarities of male female expression. One of the best and most helpful books I have read on this subject. Excellent,
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5.0 out of 5 stars great Jan. 26 2013
By Jaime
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
easy to read alone or with your spouse, sheds light on the ways in which the opposite sex communicate and is helpful
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By Botia
Everything in Ms. Tannen's world is apparently black and white as far as gender goes. Little girls play with dolls, boys play sports.
None of her gender divisions applied even remotely accurately to my life; it's almost as if my husband and I have flipflopped genders, according to the stereotypes in this book. Ms. Tannen needs to go out and view the modern world, because gender boundaries have changed, blurred, and in some cases simply disappeared.
I also disagree that men are the only ones looking to "one-up" people in a conversation, while women are always seeking to strengthen social networks.
If you really need a "self help" book in understanding your spouse that isn't so blatantly and disgustingly sexist, I recommend "The Dance of Anger" instead. It has effective suggestions for communication between people of all genders, relationships, and ages.
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1.0 out of 5 stars No You Really DON'T Understand June 1 2000
Tannen's pop-gender theory just isn't cutting it. In academic circles, Tannen's ideas are as outdated as the hoop skirt. Elsewhere, they fall flat, poised on experiments without controls, haphazard 'examples' drawn from mysterious (and never defined or outlined) encounters with random people.
Gone is social context, and other differences (cultural, age, and class) are never even considered in Tannen's book. Instead, she expects her readers to attribute all her described linguistic methods to mere gender difference. As a result, this book reads more like a dime-store novel than an intelligent critique of modern communication.
A perfect example of what NOT to read if you are interested in gender theory or writings on gendered language.
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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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars She just doesn't understand Feb. 7 2001
By A Customer
The following are just a few of the more glaring weaknesses of this unfathomably popular bit of pop-psychology masquerading as linguistic science. 1) It's empirically feeble. For example, what can you say about a book purportedly about the difference between male and female speech patterns that doesn't even mention the phenomenon of swearing. In Debbie's world, profanity --surely a genuine hallmark of the masculine linguistic style-- doesn't exist.
2) It's claim to gender objectivity is bogus. I mean, the giveaway is right there in the title: "You just don't understand!" Does anyone reckon that to be a gender-neutral utterance? Hardly. This book is actually a prolonged whine about those darn guys who just can't read the nuances of the supposed feminine speech code.
3) Theoretically it is a mess. For example, a basic premise of the Tannen worldview is that men are hierarchical critters, while women are natural egalitarians. She actually routinely compares men to pack animals like dogs. The notion that women are non-hierarchical is already pretty staggering (I mean, did Deborah Tannen never attend high school?). But her next move, that of associating men's alleged speech style with hierarchy, and women's alleged speech style with an absence of hierarchy, flies in the face of common sense. According to Deb, the male style of plain, blunt, confrontational speaking is hierarchical, whereas such a style is in fact a hallmark of egalitarianism if anything. What Tannen identifies as female speech patterns --indirect, allusive, mutually face-saving-- is a courtier's style of speech, proper to sharply stratified social contexts.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 Required Reading for Everyone!!!!!
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. Read more
Published on March 16 2004 by William DeMarco
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 15 2004 by Jen
2.0 out of 5 stars Made me think, but missed the mark.
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by cityhawk
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 9 2003 by Theresa Nichols
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Issues Broken 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 "lilmamarececup"
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Conversation Matters!
The communication barrier that exists between men and women is explored in the book, You Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation. Read more
Published on April 17 2003 by Erin Scott
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