Exploring Deborah Tannen’s Sex, Lies, and Conversation

Miscommunications Deborah Tannen’s “Sex, Lies, and Conversation” is a brief look at how men and women communicate with one another and the cross-culture differences between their individual styles and needs for conversation. Women often say that men do not listen or do not want to talk. Tannen gives reasons why women tend to believe that men are not listening, and shows that just because men have a different approach to communicating does not mean they are not listening to what women are saying.
She uses several different examples to back up her statements including early childhood differences in communication between girls and boys, the body language men use and how women tend to interpret it, and how women tend to receive information while communicating. Men and women have very different expectations when it comes to communicating with one another. The way women converse varies greatly from the way men tend to converse. Even young girls and boys have very different ways of communicating with one another.
Young children tend to play with other children of the same gender, and the boys and girls tend to have completely different social interactions with one another. Tannen states that “these systematic differences in childhood socialization make talk between women and men like cross-cultural communication, heir to all the attraction and pitfalls of that enticing but difficult enterprise (51). ” We see in women and in young girls, talk creates intimacy and intimacy creates friendships, but men and boys tend to bond more on doing things with one another rather than talking to each other.

Even the stance men take when talking varies from a woman’s. Women tend to think men are not listening to them based on the position men take when carrying on a conversation. Most women, when talking, tend to look one another in the eye. Men on the other hand tend to look around the room, occasionally catching a glance at the person they are conversing with. Women also tend to stay on one topic for longer periods of time than men. Women are also active listeners and tend to “make more listener-noise, such as ‘mhm,’ uhuh,’ and ‘yeah,’ to show ‘I’m with you’ (53). Men tend to be more silent listeners. All these misinterpretations of communication tend to drive a wedge between men and women. A big reason communication fails between men and women is a lack of understanding the different ways in which men and women communicate. When women expect the person they are communicating with to face them directly, make listener-noises, and stay on topic, it is easy to see how they view men’s unfocused attention, silent listening, and scattered topics as men not listening to what they are saying. These differences begin to clarify why women and men have such different expectations about communication in marriage (54). ” Women use talk as a form a gossip, where men are usually more antagonistic in conversation. Women tend to be offended by the oppositional form of communication, and men find the random babblings of a woman to be useless and unimportant. Understanding these differences as cross-cultural rather than individual can help forge solutions to these problems without placing blame on the individual. Communication between men and women is certainly cross-cultural.
Some examples of this theory are early childhood differences in communication between girls and boys, the body language men use and how women tend to interpret it, and how women tend to receive information while communicating. The differences between men and women should not be judged but rather accepted and respected. If they can do that, improvement in our communication will surely follow. Men and women will always communicate differently, but at least if they understand the differences they can move forward. ? Work Cited Tannen, Deborah. “Sex, Lies, and Conversation. ” The Norton Mix. Ed. Sieg, Judy. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012. Print.

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