Why Conversations Go Wrong

Do you ever struggle to communicate with your mom? Or feel like you and your spouse sometimes speak different languages? We talk with linguist Deborah Tannen about how our conversational styles can cause unintended conflicts, and what we can do to communicate more effectively with the people in our lives. If you like our work, please try to support us! See how you can help at support.hiddenbrain.org. To learn more about human behavior and ideas that can improve your life, subscribe to our newsletter at news.hiddenbrain.org

Additional Resources

Books

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Deborah Tannen, HarperCollins, 1990 and 2007 (updated)

That’s Not What I Meant! : How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships, Deborah Tannen, HarperCollins, l987 and 2011 (updated)

Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work,  Deborah Tannen, William Morrow & Company, 1994

You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, Deborah Tannen, Ballantine Books, 2006

The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words, Deborah Tannen, Ballantine Books, 1998

Finding My Father: His Century Long Journey from World War I Warsaw and My Quest to Follow, Deborah Tannen, Ballantine Books, 2020

Research Studies:

“Indirectness at Work.” Language in Action: New Studies of Language in Society, Festschrift for Roger Shuy, ed. by Joy Peyton, Peg Griffin, Walt Wolfram and Ralph Fasold, 189-212.  Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2000.

“The Display of (Gendered) Identities in Talk at Work.” Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse, ed. by Mary Bucholtz, A. C. Liang, and Laurel A. Sutton, 221- 240. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

“The Display of (Gendered) Identities in Talk at Work.” Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse, ed. by Mary Bucholtz, A. C. Liang, and Laurel A. Sutton, 221- 240. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

“Interpreting Interruption in Conversation.” Papers from the 25th Annual Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Part Two: Parasession on Language in Context, ed. by Bradley Music, Randolph Graczyk, and Caroline Wiltshire, 266-87. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society, 1989.

“When is an Overlap not an Interruption? One Component of Conversational Style.” The First Delaware Symposium on Language Studies, ed. Robert J. Di Pietro, William Frawley, and Alfred Wedel, 119-129. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983.

“Ethnic Style in Male/Female Conversation.” Language and Social Identity, ed. John Gumperz, 217-231. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. 

“Indirectness in Discourse: Ethnicity as Conversational Style.” Discourse Processes 4:3 (1981): 221-238. Earlier draft appeared as Sociolinguistic Working Paper #55 (January 1979), reprinted in Language and Speech in American Society. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 1980.

“New York Jewish Conversational Style.” International Journal of the Sociology of Language 30 (1981): 133-149. Reprinted in Intercultural Discourse and Communication, ed. by Scott F. Kiesling and Christina Bratt Paulston, 135-149. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. 

“The Machine-gun Question: An Example of Conversational Style.” Journal of Pragmatics 5:5 (1981): 383-397. Earlier draft appeared as “Toward a Theory of Conversational Style: The Machine Gun Question.” Sociolinguistic Working Paper #73. Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 1980.

 “Children Socializing Children: Practices for Negotiating the Social Order among Peers.” Marjorie Harness Goodwin (with Amy Kyratzis) Introduction to Research on Language and Social Interaction 40(4). Special Issue edited by Marjorie H. Goodwin and Amy Kyratzis, 2007 


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