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Communication Problems Among Couples – Married People Essay

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Updated: Nov 10th, 2021

In her article “Sex, Lies, and Conversation” Debora Tannen argues cross-gender communication is identical to cross-cultural, as it resembles the contact between two distinct civilizations in different languages. The core of Tannen’s argument is that the differences in communication styles that exist between men and women appear to be a common cause of divorce. The present paper argues that the author’s extensive use of stereotypes and practice of combining incompatible research data make her claims fallacious and superficial.

First of all, it needs to be noted that the author employs the illustrations of cross-gender communication from popular media which normally provide information in a simplified form, given their distraction and entertainment purpose. The reiteration of stereotypes suggested by media in an analytical and ostensibly research-based report is unacceptable, as the purpose of Tannen’s paper is to provide accurate and reliable information. For instance, the author compares the garrulousness of males and females using a scene from the media: “In short, the image that best represents the current crisis is the stereotypical cartoon scene of a man sitting at the breakfast table with a newspaper held up in front of his fact, while a woman glares at the back of it, wanting to talk” (Tannen, p.341). In this sense, Jivkova suggests that women’s talkativeness originates from the epoch when patriarchal families were more widespread. In such families, the male role was providing for the family, working or “acting”, whereas the woman as a housekeeper and caregiver was involved in a series of conversations and negotiations on the daily basis (Jivkova, p.5). However, these behavioral patterns do not point to the fact that 100 percent (or even the majority) of women are more talkative than men by their character.

Another stereotype the author refers to is formulated as “men don’t know what kind of talk women want, and they don’t miss it when it isn’t there” (Tannen, p.342). If men do not know which topic women are willing to discuss and in which way, then the mutual interest between male and female, based upon fulfilling and informative communication is barely possible. To incite interest in the interlocutor, it is necessary to talk about those issues which this person thinks about, believes to be important, or views as their hobby. Several men manage to find an interesting topic to discuss with women, and because it is possible to notice women and men talking voluntarily on a variety of topics, from work to science and technology, one can assume that men know what their female interlocutor wishes to listen to and in which form.

Moreover, people of opposite sexes can and can develop a strong connection, based purely on intellectual interest, so one can assume Tannen’s statement is merely a reduction of the complex communicational dimension. Moreover, the possibility of intellectual interest that underlies the closeness and attachment between a man and a woman also repudiates the following stereotypical idea: “Women’s conversational habits are as frustrating to men as men’s to women”. If this statement is true, then it is not clear at all how males and females manage to negotiate at work, establish friendships with one another and get along as husband and wife. The world ruled by this notion would be fully gendered, which means, in this world, people would avoid cross-gender communication. Interpersonal relationships often start with an interesting conversation, which lays the foundations of attraction, and as long as this phenomenon is possible, Tannen’s statement remains a mere declaration of gender-based perceptions of communication.

Another popular idea which can be found in Tannen’s article is that “men use “agonistic” or warlike, oppositional formats to do almost anything, thus discussion becomes debate […]In contrast, women see conversation as a ritual means of establishing rapport” (Tannen, p.343). This means, men tend to involve in talks to challenge the speaker’s claims, whereas women converse to increase mutual understanding. However, in the interpersonal dimension, the talk might have a wide variety of purposes, from informing or giving instructions to sharing impressions and expressing emotions (Kray & Thompson, p.155); because the author names only two purposes, her statement can be viewed as reductionist.

It also needs to be noted that the erroneousness of the article’s argument consists of the shallow interpretation of the empirical data. For instance, if the majority of divorced women and only a few men explain their separation in terms of the lack of communication 9Tannen, p.341), this doesn’t mean exactly that women require more communication by their nature. These results might be interpreted as the lack of attention from men’s side or the lack of common topics to discuss as the possible reasons for divorce from women’s perspective.

Thus, cross-gender communication is much more complicated than the abstractive model suggested by Deborah Tannen. For instance, I know a real-life situation that might undermine the position outlined in the article. One of my male acquaintances once fell in love with a very shy and reserved girl. As they went out together, normally took initiative in communication and told her about his travels, life experiences and even addressed professional issues (he is an IT professional, whereas she is a designer). The girl listened carefully, but did not tell much about herself, only asked questions and willingly learned new knowledge. As a result, my friend confessed to me that her silent attention and her specifying questions allowed him to understand himself and his profession much better. Although the young lady was extremely authentic and did not try to win his admiration through talking a lot about herself (as implied in Tannen’s paper) or boasting about her achievements (in fact, she felt comfortable talking about him), he proposed to her. They have been living together for three years, and because both of them are workaholics and prefer to work from home, they share space for the whole day without interfering with one another’s acts or requiring each other’s attention. This politeness and non-intervention into the working space of other partners make their relationship harmonious and makes the spouses more organized in their communication, i.e. they plan and coordinate together their work time and “talk time”, or leisure.

Works cited

Tannen D. “Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?” In Literature Across Cultures, Fifth Edition by Sheena Gillespie, Tony Pipolo and Terezinha Fonseca. Longman, 2007, pp.341-344.

Marinova, J. . 2009. Web.

Kray, L. and Thompson, L. “Gender Stereotypes and Negotiation Performance: An Examination of Theory and Research”. Research in Organizational Behavior, 26 , 103-182. Web.

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