Was Deborah Tannen’s Essay Successful?

Deborah Tannen holds a Master of Arts degree and Philosophy Doctorate degree in Linguistics. She is also a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She wrote a very good essay that was published in “The Washington Post” in June 1990 entitled “Sex, Lies and Conversation: Why Is It So Hard For Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?” It is also featured in her book “You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation.” It is a very good essay explaining how differently men and women view communication. In conducting research for her work, she addressed a small women’s group where she noticed women complaining about their men not communicating well. This can wreak havoc on their relationships. She also refers to other research that has confirmed this to be true, as well. She also studied different relationships and how both genders acted among their peers of the same gender. Deborah Tannen is very successful establishing her arguments with her essay. She used strong external sources, she is unbiased to both men and women, and she also explained very well how different both men and women truly are.

One way Deborah Tannen is very successful establishing her arguments with her essay is because she uses strong external sources. In her essay she refers to the April 1990 issue of “American Psychologist” where Stanford University’s Eleanor Maccoby reported the results of her own and others’ research showing the development of children and their social structure and how the children tend to interact with other children of their own gender. The girls would create friendships by exchanging secrets to each other while the boys would create friendships by doing things together and not by talking. She also referred to Walter Ong’s book “Fighting For Life.” He pointed out in this book that men tend to use warlike formats to do almost anything which can cause discussion to become debate, making conversation a competitive sport. On the other hand, women would see conversation as a ritual means of establishing friendship. She also refers to Linguist Lynette Hirschman who has found that women make more listener noise than men do. Ms. Hirschman has found that men give more silent attention. Women would say things like “mhm,” “uhuh,” or “yea,” to show they are listening while men would just stay silent.

Another way Deborah Tannen was very successful establishing her arguments with her essay is because she was unbiased to both men and women. She didn’t show any favoritism to any particular gender. She also didn’t show any hatred to men for their lack of communication skills, and she didn’t show any hatred to women for their lacking to understand how men communicate. She explained how women view conversation compared to how men view conversation and that women should just be more understanding if their men won’t talk to them. She also explained that men should try different approaches to show that they are actually listening to their women. One particular incident she mentions was when one woman wanted to talk, her boyfriend would lie down and cover his face as if to take a nap. He explained it was so he can understand her better. Another time he tried this however, he went through that motion but after a while sat up to look at her instead.

The final reason Deborah Tannen was very successful establishing her arguments with her essay is because she explains very well the differences with men and with women from her own studies and research. She found that due to how it is for men growing up bonding with other boys, they don’t assume that talk is the cement that binds a relationship; therefore they don’t know what kind of talk their wives or girlfriends want. They also don’t miss talking when it’s not going on. She even addressed a small women’s group in Virginia where some women complained how their men don’t talk to them. One man in the group even looked at his wife and said that she was the talker in their family. In studying different people and couples, Deborah Tannen has found that even though men talk well in public situations, they don’t talk well at home. This is due in part to the different cultures in how men and women are growing up. She also studied videotapes of children and adults who were talking to their same-gender best friends. She found that at all ages, both girls and women would directly face each other and look at each other, while in contrast the men and boys of all ages would sit at angles, and would look elsewhere and only periodically looking at each other. She noted that the tendency of men looking away can give women the impression that men aren’t listening when they really are. Another incident she explained was with a group of 10th graders. The 10th grade boys would rarely look at each other and when talking about problems, they would dismiss each other’s problems. One boy was upset because a girl told him he had a drinking problem, but another boy told him it wasn’t a big deal because he thought he was funny drunk. When another boy felt alienated, another responded with “Why should you? You know more people than me.” The girls on the other hand took these responses as belittling and unsupportive even though the boys were satisfied with the responses. Women would reassure by stating, “You shouldn’t feel bad because I have had similar experiences.” A man’s reply would imply, “You shouldn’t feel bad because your problems aren’t so bad.”

Deborah Tannen did very well establishing her arguments in her essay “Sex, Lies, and Conversation.” These arguments have also been proven to be true. It does seem very difficult for men and women to communicate with one another and can wreak havoc on the relationship. In my own personal experiences with relationships, I have witnessed first-hand this difficulty. A man can say things one way, but it can become a battle with their significant other. Or a man won’t say anything at all because he won’t know how to respond and so his wife or girlfriend would than assume he’s trying to be unsupportive. He can also say certain things to be supportive, but she would take it the wrong way and then it becomes a fight. Both men and women need to learn to understand how different both genders are. Both genders need to learn how to communicate well and how to live well with each other. They also should learn how to understand one another. Only then can both get along very well in this crazy mixed up world we live in.


Works Cited:

Tannen, Deborah. “Sex, Lies, and Conversation: Why is it so hard for men and women to talk to each other?” Blueprints for Writing: Building Essays. Ed. Pam Mathis. Boston:Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2014. 329-334. Print


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s