Deborah Tannen's Can't We Talk Essay

1304 words - 5 pages

Deborah Tannen's Can't We Talk

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 the expectations of men to be tough, men feel like they need to solve every problem. The husband was not being insensitive to his wife; he was merely trying to offer her a solution. The reason that the wife became upset is that she was not in search of a solution to her problem but she was in search of support.

Tannen’s section entitled independence vs. intimacy pertains to the idea that women often seek intimacy whereas men seek to remain somewhat independent. When a man’s high school friend informed him that he would be in town, he invited the friend to stay with him and his wife. The husband later told his wife that his friend would be staying with them and the wife became upset because the husband had not consulted her. The idea that men seek independence is related to man’s expectations of being tough. If a man is forced to consult his wife on his actions he is left feeling quite vulnerable because other men may say that he is controlled by his wife. Women seek intimacy for the same reason that they seek support. The woman does not want her husband to consult her so she can control him; she merely wants to feel included in the decision. The section orders vs. proposals is very closely related to...

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