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You Just Don'T Understand

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Deborah Tannen is the author of the book You Just Don't Understand where she analyzes the different meanings of communication between men and women. Her research shows that women and men use the same words and phrases and yet can interpret and react to those same words and phrases differently. Tannen compares the two sexes to find men use their conversation as a type of competition or to preserve their independence. For example, men talk about their knowledge regarding sports, cars, women, exc. Meanwhile, women try to foster intimacy through communication. For instance, women often talk and relate on a personal level. Throughout Tannen's book she uses "cross-cultural communication" to describe the differences between the language of men and women. Tannen observed that, "For males, conversation is the way you negotiate your status in the group and keep people from pushing you around; you use talk to preserve your independence. Females, on the other hand, use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy; talk is the essence of intimacy, so being best friends means sitting and talking. For boys, activities, doing things together, are central. Just sitting and talking is not an essential part of friendship. They're friends with the boys they do things with" (Tannen 95).

Tannen observed that communication begins with children. While a child grows they learn to speak from their parents and peers. Boy and girls may grow up within the same household but learn to communicate differently with each other. In groups children often play with the same sex: i.e. girls with girls, boys with boys. Although Tannen did a study on communication between men and women, she started with the interactions and communication of children. Her study concludes boys tend to play outside within large groups usually playing: sports, army, or cops and robbers. One boy in the group tends to take control, over the rest of the members, making him the leader. Meanwhile, girls play in smaller groups or pairs playing: house or dolls. This type of playing gives girls equality to ensure they will make a best friend. Tannen points out boys style of communication is more competitive arguing over who is the winner opposed to who is the loser, while the girls are less competitive by trying to make suggestions and compromise with others.

Boys growing into young men focus more on being dominate and having a strong desire, to be the best at everything. Young men tend to continue giving orders to maintain dominance, which they view as strength. Men seek power, for their social status is important to their self-image. Tannen discussed the research of Marjorie Goodwin, who studied boys in Philadelphia for a year and a half. "She found the high-status boys gave orders just to maintain their dominance, not because they particularly needed the thing done. And the boys who were being told what to do were low status, by virtue of doing what they were told" (Tannen 53). In contrast, girls growing into young women generally do not have the desire to dominate, but are more passive and prefer compromise. Social status is also important to young woman but not to seek power rather their strong desire to be liked. For women their main goal is to be popular and liked by others.

Women relate intimacy through communication in their relationship. They build relationships with friends talking about troubles and personal events in their life. Men on the other hand build relationships with friends through activities and spending time together. Women take arguments seriously and they feel the need to find a solution. Men are the opposite by not taking arguments seriously, they can easily move on without holding a grudge and later act as if nothing happened. Women are not always looking for a solution but rather speak to be heard. Men on the other hand feel they need to give solutions and find it more difficult to listen. Women place value in relationships by communicating their feelings, when she opens up to a person she is trying to connect with whom she is talking to. Men do not find the same value in communicating their feelings as often as women for that is placing the man a step closer to being a woman.

Tannen notes that men are confused by the various ways women use conversation to be intimate with others. One of these ways she calls "troubles talk." She says, "For women, talking about troubles is the essence of connection. I tell you my troubles, you tell me your troubles, and we're close. Men, however, hear troubles talk



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