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
together.” Women are dependent emotionally and therefore depend on their best friends and the intimacy they provide to each other.
In her book Tannen describes the way males and females talk with the terms “report-talk” and “rapport-talk.” She says that men speak in “report-talk” which means that they are talking mainly to share information. They also use speaking as a way to preserve their independence, negotiate their relationships, and display their knowledge. According to Tannen, men utilize talking primarily as a way to get and keep the attention. Tannen believes the way women...