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You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation Hardcover – May 9 1991

3.7 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd (May 9 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853813818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853813818
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #567,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.


"San Francisco Chronicle" Utterly fascinating....A classic in the field. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
The Difference in Understanding
Do men and women really interpret each other differently when speaking or expressing a thought? I believe there is a communication barrier that exists between men and women. In the book "You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation," Deborah Tannen explains and gives examples of vast situations that men and women, girls and boys, encounter on a daily basis.
I strongly agree with Tannen that the difference in conversation stems from the way we are raised as children. She states,
"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 highlights differences. In the world of status, independence is the 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 man on the second."
Boys and girls tend to play in same-sex group and though some activities they play are similar, many of their favorite games also differ. For example, boys tend to play in larger groups, with a leader who tells them what to do. They like to achieve status by grabbing center stage through telling stories, jokes or challenging the stories of others. Boys games tend to have losers and winners. Girls in contrast, usually play in small groups. Their most popular games are playing house or jump roping, where everyone gets a turn and no one wins or looses. Girls sit and talk most of the time. They are more concerned with being liked rather than achieving status.
As adults, women have a reputation for talking too much.
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