Deborah Tannen’s case study entitled “Can’t We Talk?” is the most relevant reading that I have ever done for any class. It relates to a problem that every person regardless of age, race or sex, will have to face many times in his or her lifetime. The problem is that men and women communicate differently and these differences can often lead to conflict. This case study is very informative because it helps to clarify the thought process of each sex. That said this reading leaves the reader somewhat unfulfilled because Tannen does not offer a solution to the problem.
In Tannen’s first section, status vs. support, Tannen states that women view talking as a way to receive support, whereas men are always trying to gain the upper hand while talking. Tannen and her husband had jobs in different cities. When people would comment on her situation Tannen would accept their support of her difficult situation. Her husband, on the other hand, would feel threatened and felt compelled to refuse their support and point out the good in the situation. Due to societal influences men are often expected to be tough and therefore they feel threatened more easily. Because they feel threatened more easily they tend to go on the offensive more during conversation. Women are expected to be more sensitive and therefore they seek support. The section entitled advice vs. understanding is very closely related to status vs. support. In this section a woman has a deformed breast, due to a previous bout with cancer, and expresses her distress to her husband. Her husband responds that she could have plastic surgery to correct the deformity. She became quite upset at the thought of another surgery. Because of t...
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...roblems of inter sex communication. She does a superb job of pointing out how each sex reacts to each situation and why, but does not even propose a solution. Now that I have read this case study I feel as though I am prepared to offer a solution although I am not sure how viable it is. The recurring themes of Tannen’s case study are that men are expected to be tough and women are expected to seek support. These themes seem to be the root of the conflict between the sexes, so I would propose that each sex should do their best to break away from these expectations. Men should strive to be more open and less concerned about preserving a macho image whereas women should strive to be less dependent on the approval of others. While my proposed solution would not completely abolish miscommunication between the sexes, it would be a large step in the right direction.
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