You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversationby Deborah Tannen
Not long ago, I had the privilege of speaking to the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce Women in Business group. My topic was “Finding Humor in Stressful Situations.” I came up with and committed to the topic before I thought about what I was actually going to say.
I thought about it a lot, and finally landed on beginning with basic communication, and about how you say something matters almost as much as what you say, and the fact is that your gender (amongst other characteristics) is one critical factor in how what you say will be perceived. You’ve heard it before: an aggressive man is a go-getter, an aggressive woman is a witch. Blah blah. My theory is that one way to bridge that gap is to use humor, much in the way that the Shakespearean ‘fool’ is the only one allowed to tell the truth to the King without being executed for the privilege.
All of which is a somewhat long introduction to the book I recommended everyone in the audience to read, that is, Deborah Tannen’s “You Just Don’t Understand.” Ms. Tannen is a linguist at Georgetown University, who has made a name for herself studying the gender differences in communication. After I read this book (which I originally read for an alternative dispute relations class in law school) the way I look at conversation has really changed. It is really insightful, and her ‘ladder’ and ‘web’ theories about communication really do explain a lot. It is probably the only reason why I tolerate some of the boneheaded things my husband says. In a way, you can say this book saved my marriage.
I’m not weighing in on the nature vs. nuture vs. societal perception arguments, nor the “is this the way it should be?” or “how can we change it?” conversations. I’m merely pointing out what is, and understanding the problem is, I think, 75% along the way to solving it.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.