A Review of
Deborah Tannen, Talking from 9 to 5

Quill, 2001

by Lee-Jake K. Strunk, 01 May 03

Instructions for this Report

Major Points:

Differences in Talking: men to men/women to women:

Tannen goes through various differences on the differences on how men and women speak to each other.

Differences in Talking: men to women:

Once we understand the differences in how men and women talk amongst their on gender groups, we can understand why it is that they have so much trouble understanding and communicating across genders. We also get an understanding on how they should communicate with each other.

Conflicts Caused by these differences:

When we can understand how men and women speak within and across their gender groups, we begin to see how the conflicts arise because of these differences. We can see the conflicts and can begin to formulate ideas on how these conflicts can be resolved.



Differences in Talking: men to men/women to women:

Men and women have different ways of speaking to one another. Tannen allows this to be very clear in the various articles that she places in her book. I think that its very interesting that she places a lot of emphasis on how these differences seems to have an affect on women, and hardly ever takes the angle of the affects it may have on men. This may be because she does view that women are usually getting the "raw deal" more often than men are in the work environment. Seeing as how I am not a linguist, or a PhD, or a PhD in Linguistics, I know very little of what is actually going on with men and women and their conversations and would find it interesting to see if there are any negative affects of their differences from a menís perspective.

I do find that she is very clear when she discusses the differences between the two gender groupsí internal communication. I like that she makes sure to mention many of the common things that Iíve noticed in my own life and experiences with the opposite sex as well as with other men. There are lots of things that she discusses that Iíve also noticed in just my everyday encounters with other people.

This actual topic is discussed in connection to my next topic within the same chapters. I actually like this because it gives you a chance to see these differences for yourself in the context of how she is explaining them. Very often while listening to my peers lecture on chapters, or reading them myself, I found myself going "oh yeahÖthat makes sense" and recognizing the various phenomenon that she discusses.

I think that this, like the other two main topics that I found in her book, are very important for us to understand. It is very rare that we will find ourselves working in an environment that will only have members of our same sex with us. More likely we will find ourselves in a work place which mixes all forms of people of different races, ages and genders, and it is important for us to know how to work with these people, especially those of the opposite gender. This is a good book for pretty much anyone to read, as long as they can put aside the fact that it is very one-sided towards a womanís point of view.

Differences in Talking: Men to Women and vise-versa:

While we now know how it is that we differ from the opposite sex in terms of communication to eachother, Tannen is very good to discuss the even more important "how does this affect between-gender communication" question. This is very important to understand as it will allow us to not only know WHAT these differences are, but also how we can avoid them, or work around them. One of the things that turned me off a little to this book was that she consistently seems to bash men. When she discusses the differences between the genders when they are talkin to eachother, it often sounds like she is saying that women are right and men are wrong in the discussions that they have with eachother.

When she talks about the differences she also very clearly shows us how the differences that we have when we are communicating "within our genders" show up when we try to talk "across" genders. I like that this is brought up because knowing how the different styles of commication interact with eachother, and how we interpret and misinterpret eachother plays a big role in many of the downfalls of modern society. It seems that we are still a male dominated society (speaking mostly about western culture) and that communication, in general, will be geared more towards how men communicate. This is negative because it does not take into account that women may not be getting the same message that men are, or may not be getting the right message at all. Not saying that any particular form of method is "correct," but that it should be taken into account that the two genders communicate and interpret things completely differently.

As Iíve mentioned in the previous major topic discussion, it is very important that we know eachothersí differences in order to more effectively communicate with eachother. When I look past the seemingly gender-biased opinions that Tannen portrays through her discussions, I can find that there is very useful information that I will be able to, and have in the past, use in my career. As a leader in the military, I find that I am working with many different types of individuals, to include a growing population of women in the military. I can only be an effective leader if I know how to take into account and understand the different styles of communication and understanding that my subordinates and collegues have, no matter their gender.


Conflicts Caused by these Differences:

In understanding the differences that we have in communicating with eachother and how these differences come into play when we communicate between genders, we can understand better how they come into conflict with each other. We have now come to the understanding that when women are talking, they generally are doing so with the underlying goal of cultivating a relationship, or starting one. When men are talking they are doing so with the intentions of completing a task or exchanging technical information. When they talk to each other, across genders, the task oriented nature of men, and relationship orientation of women, often collide and they misunderstand one another. This has so many real life and practical applications. Just knowing this, alone, could help enlighten and enhance communication between the sexes.

This seems to be the best part about Tannenís book. She goes into pretty good depth about the various conflicts that arise due to the differences between the styles of communication that the different genders have. We see good examples of how it affects the status of women in the work place, how they are understood (or misunderstood), and we even see how it affects how MUCH a women is heard.

I find that this is helpful because she enlightens us on common practices and conflicts that arise everyday in a co-gender work place. Iíve found it myself, when I am communicating with someone of the opposite sex at work that it may sometimes feel awkward because it seems like we are both speaking different languages. It makes things so difficult too when I am just concentrating on communicating about getting a job done, or about what itíll take, and the other person gets their feelings hurt because Iím not taking other things into consideration (like how others feel about working so hard or something). I do think that now I will have a better chance of getting things done, while being able to communicate effectively with the people I work with. This is a very important thing for pretty much anyone who works in a co-gender environment, and Iíd suggest that they read this, especially supervisors. As a manager at my work place, I find that what I have learned so far helps me to understand the people who work for me, and be better understood by them.

Bookís Importance

The importance of this book is pretty obvious. In order for men and women to work better together, and stop getting on each otherís nerves so much, we need to better understand how the other communicates. Tannen is very good about bringing out the differences in her various examples as well as letting us see what the conflicts are that arise from these differences. Her solutions to the communication problem most often includes either sex changing to adapt to the opposite sex and their style of communication. This makes sense for the most part because you canít expect just one gender to change all the time. There are certain situations which each style of communication and understanding is necessary.

It seems that not only is this subject important to professionals in the work force, but also to psychologists who would study them, specifically linguistic and social psychologists. How we communicate to one another is so important to our interaction. You can not interact with another human being without communicating a message of some sort to them. This communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, intentional or non-intentional, is imminent and how it is interpreted may differ from person to person, depending on their sex. This interaction is also an important part of how psychologists can study us, and understand why it is that we interact in certain ways.

The problems that Tannen looks at are discussed very well. She goes into great depth the different issues that pertain to communication between genders. However, it seems, as Iíve said before, that her views are a little one sided. She puts a lot of emphasis on the ways that females are affected by these differences, and not a lot on men. I think that she could have looked a little at how men are affected, and added that as a problem that we need to solve, as opposed to looking like she was just trying to make things better for only women. But, with this aside, the problems that she does discuss are very clearly discussed and are explained in great detail.

Bookís Structure

I donít remember there being any quizzes or tests in this book. However, in regards to the structure of the book itself and its chapters, it seems that there is no real pattern to how they are put in there. She basically introduces the topic in the first chapter, and from there she discusses various problems and subjects relating to the main topic. Iím not sure if that was by design, or if a better way could have been found, but I usually like there to be some sort of obvious pattern to the chapters in a book.

The rest of the book is very bland, there arenít any diagrams or figures to illustrate the data that Tannen discusses. This was one of the things that I found odd. I am used to academic style books which usually will illustrated every other idea that it brings up. I think that it would help drive some of her points home if she shows some statistics from the studies that she mentions so much. The only reason I could think she wouldnít, is because of the subject matter and the fact that it may be hard to illustrate.

The references she sites and the index that she uses are also very "dry," much like the rest of her book. She presents everything in an alphabetical order and does not split it up by subject and name, like Albert Bandura does in our 409B text book. Once again, I think that the only reason this would not be possible with Tannen, is because of the subject matter she speaks about. It is not something that you can break down into easy to find subjects, rather it is many different little things combined into one or two major themes.

I would say that after all is said and done, this book is informative and helped me to understand the topic it discusses. However, it is definetly not something that Iíd read in bed at night for fear of falling asleep before I started to comprehend anything.

Critique of the Book

I would like to say that this was a great book, primarily because of the topic that it discusses. It brings lots of good information and common occurrences into a light that people can see and understand them in. However, a part of me wishes that she would have been a little less biased sounding, by going into the affects that these subjects have on men, and any disadvantages that they may experience due to the differences and conflicts.

"At work we need to get others to do things. Different people have different ways of accomplishing this, and any individualís way will vary depending on who is being addressed Ė a boss, a peer, a subordinate." This area from Chapter 3 seemed to have the most relevance to me, being that as a leader in the military, I have to get people to do things that they often donít want to do in the first place. To one extreme, some military commanders must even send people that they know into situations that could potentially end their lives. Getting them to do this is very tricky and tough situation to be in. However, for everyday tasks, it is good to know how different genders work, in relation to giving and receiving orders. That way you know how to best handle a situation and a person that you need to get to do something.

During the course of this class I noticed that Tannenís strong point is that she is very observant of how people communicate towards eachother. This is expected since she is a "linguist and lover of words." However, a weakness that I noticed is that she is not very good about giving hard data evidence to back up her claims and her "studies" that she cites. I find it helpful to see actual proof of the numbers so I can judge for myself on what they say, and how they should be interpreted.


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