The Qualms of Communication Essay

The Qualms of Communication Essay

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The Qualms of Communication

"He never talks to me!" That phrase is the most common complaint that women have about men. The communication process between men and women has long been an interest for many people. The way we speak and why we speak that way have prompted diverse opinions from various authors over the years. Deborah Tannen is one such author. Tannen, who has a doctorate in linguistics, is a professor at Georgetown University. She has been studying the way people communicate and the problems they have communicating with each other for many years. Her studies inspired her to write several books on the subject. The excerpt “Put Down That Paper and Talk To Me,” which appears in the textbook Writing the World, was taken from her best-seller You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, written in 1991. Deborah Tannen believes men and women talk differently because they are raised in two different conversational cultures and that problems arise because of conversational style. She thinks that boys are taught to speak like men and girls taught to talk like women. In the essay Tannen addresses many of the misgivings of communication, based upon her numerous studies, that she believes proves men and women really are taught to talk a certain way.

Deborah Tannen has been studying how people communicate with each other and she believes it starts at a very early age. Starting when we are very young, we communicate very differently. On a television show titled “She Said, He Said,” Tannen showed some video recording on a study of hers that had two same-sex children enter a room and sit and talk to each other. She performed this same study on varying ages of children from 5 to 16 and in every case the results were the same. She found that the boys would sit side by side and would speak almost distractedly, while looking about the room. The girls would enter the room, place their chairs facing each other, and would speak looking directly at each other. To Tannen, this study showed how males do not talk with much intimacy. Their relationships are held together by performing activities in a group, such as sports or politics. She believes men speak when they feel a need to impress or if their social status is in question. The females however, spoke with much more closeness. Tannen says, “For females, talk is the glue that holds their relationships...


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...them control power, wealth, and social resources because men think that women do not want them. Another one of Tannen’s critics, Senta Troemel-Ploetz, accuses Deborah Tannen of ignoring the possibility that men and women communicate differently because of differences of power. Troemel-Ploetz contends that the problem goes beyond conversational style. She believes that Tannen completely misses the power-struggle between the two sexes in the ways that they speak. She believes that society is giving men too much power in speaking and essentially how people are leading their lives.

Tannen’s advice on how to solve communication problems is mainly just to understand the differences in the way we speak. Tannen says, “Many men honestly do not know what women want, and women honestly do not know why men find what they want so hard to comprehend and deliver.” Men and women are different so naturally we will behave and talk differently. Since we start communicating at a young age Tannen believes we are raised to speak in separate worlds by a combination of cultural and biological influences, and if we can better understand our differences, we can solve many of the qualms of communication.

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