Deborah Tannen, fully Deborah Frances Tannen

Tannen, fully Deborah Frances Tannen

American Academic and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University

Author Quotes

When people realize that in the long run you may be turning off the audiences more, even though they will look temporarily--in the end they turn away, we really need to develop other metaphors and not talk about two sides, but talk about all sides.

We tend to look through language and not realize how much power language has.

We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

The seeds of the Argument Culture can be found our classrooms, where a teacher will introduce an article or an idea... up debates where people learn not to listen to each other because they're so busy trying to win the debate.

The repercussions are so deep because our responses are emotional. When you think you're being snubbed, what does that mean? It means your 'humanness' is not being acknowledged. When you feel you're being imposed on, your reaction of 'Give me some space' is so automatic.

The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation - or a relationship.

Smashing heads does not open minds.

Saying that men talk about baseball in order to avoid talking about their feelings is the same as saying that women talk about their feelings in order to avoid talking about baseball

Part of the reason (motherly advice) bugs us as daughters is because our mothers are so powerful in our lives. They loom like giants. The reason mothers keep at it is because they're so powerless. They cannot get you to do what is so obvious to them you should do.

Many of us dismiss talk that does not convey important information as worthless - meaningless small talk if it's a social setting or empty rhetoric if it's public. Such admonitions as Skip the small talk, Get to the point, or Why don't you say what you mean? may seem to be reasonable. But they are reasonable only if information is all that counts. This attitude toward talk ignores the fact that people are emotionally involved with each other and that talking is the major way be establish, maintain, monitor and adjust our relationships.

Life is a matter of dealing with other people, in little matters and cataclysmic ones, and that means a series of conversations.

It's our tendency to approach every problem as if it were a fight between two sides. We see it in headlines that are always using metaphors for war. It's a general atmosphere of animosity and contention that has taken over our public discourse.

It was just so obvious that everyone wanted to talk about the mother-daughter relationship. I think it's because women really are struggling, because it's a very important relationship in your life.

I think it's that the same dynamics that go on between any close relationship go on here. It's just particularly intense between mothers and daughters.

For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships. Emphasis is placed on displaying similarities and matching experiences. From childhood, girls criticize peers who try to stand out or appear better than others. People feel their closest connections at home, or in settings where they feel close to and comfortable with--in other words, during private speaking. But even the most public situations can be approached like private speaking. For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order. This is done by exhibiting knowledge and skill, and by holding center stage through verbal performance such as storytelling, joking, or imparting information. From childhood, men learn to use talking as a way to get and keep attention. So they are more comfortable speaking in larger groups made up of people they know less well--in the broadest sense, public speaking. But even the most private situations can be approached like public speaking, more like giving a report than establishing rapport.

Each underestimates her own power and overestimates the other's.

Each person's life is lived as a series of conversations.

Communication is a continual balancing act, juggling the conflicting needs for intimacy and independence. To survive in the world, we have to act in concert with others, but to survive as ourselves, rather than simply as cogs in a wheel, we have to act alone.

A perfectly tuned conversation is a vision of sanity--a ratification of one's way of being human and one's way in the world.

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Tannen, fully Deborah Frances Tannen
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American Academic and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University