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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive guide to avoiding misunderstandings with the opposite sex, 22 April 2007
This review is from: You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (Paperback)
This is one of the most usuful books ever written, and far and away the most helpful I have seen on the topic of how men and woman can understand each other better.

Dr Deborah Tannen is a professor of linguistics; her first book on the subject of communications was called "That's not what I meant." That book had ten chapters about alternative aspects of differing conversationsal styles and the misunderstandings they can cause: one of those ten chapters dealt with gender differences. But as Dr Tannen explains in the preface to this book, 90% of the feedback and requests for interviews or follow-up articles concerning that first book concentrated on 10% of it - the chapter on male-female differences.

The reason is not hard to seek. Differences in geographical origin, profession, race, class or ethnic background can easily be associated with differing communication styles which can lead to misunderstandings. However, we are not forced to build our most important and intimate relationships with people from whom we have such differences, though some choose to. But none of us can avoid having relationships central to our lives with people of the opposite sex. All of us have one parent of the other gender, the 90% of us who are heterosexuals have to look for our life-partners among the other gender, anyone who has a child has a 50% chance of having to raise someone of the other gender.

So Dr Tannen set out to explore communications and misunderstandings between men and women, and this book was the result.

I had been married less than two weeks when my wife and I managed to almost exactly act out one of the first examples of a male-female misunderstanding given in this book. Dr Tannen had presented in a Washington Post article a real-life conversation between a couple in their car.

The wife had asked "Would you like to stop for a drink?" The husband, taking the question literally and precisely at its face value, answered "No". The woman, who had expected her husband to realise that she did want to stop for a drink, was upset because it appeared to her that he ignored her wishes. The man, when it came out later that his wife was upset by this, was equally frustrated, wondering "Why didn't she just say what she wanted?"

Luckily when my wife and I enacted an almost identical conversation, (substituting a chinese takeaway for a drink) she added the comment "I really fancied a chinese" before it was too late to get one. If I had not read this book I might well have been hurt or confused and asked something like "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" As I had, I recognised at that we had fallen into the same pattern as the example in the book and that the problem was easily rectified; we stopped the car to get the takeaway, and avoided what could have developed into a completely unnecessary row. This was the first of a number of occasions when the book has helped us communicate better.

Dr Tannen is at pains to emphasise that she is not suggesting that men's or women's ways of speaking are necessarily better, just different, and that both sexes will be able to communicate more effectively if they have an understanding of those differences.

This book helped me for one to do that, and I strongly recommend it.
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