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I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You're All Adults Paperback – May 28, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Everything we say to each other echoes with meanings left over from our past experience--both our history talking to the person before us at this moment and our history talking to others," says Deborah Tannen, one of the world's most famous linguists. We react not only to the message, but to the "metamessage": our interpretation of the unstated meaning, based on tone, relationship, and our past associations. Add in the connections and control issues among family members, and it's no wonder families have so much trouble understanding each other!

I Only Say This Because I Love You is aimed mostly at adult family interactions. Professor Deborah Tannen, the popular author of You Just Don't Understand, uses anecdotes filled with dialogues to illustrate why we hear criticism when the other person meant to convey caring, how family members create alignments with secrets and broken confidences, the dynamics of arguments, the power of apologies, gender patterns in family talk, and communication with teens. You're bound to recognize your family members--and yourself!--in Tannen's examples.

You won't find quick, easy answers for improving communication in your family, but you will discover another dimension of understanding what's really going on. Now if you could just get your mother to read the book! --Joan Price --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Tannen's You Just Don't Understand set tongues wagging across the country in the early 1990s with its analysis of gender differences in speaking styles. Now the linguist and author of numerous other books turns her attention to patterns of speech within families. Though the subject is not as sexy as in her mega-bestseller, most readers are apt to hear themselves in these pages. For example, Tannen asserts, in many situations the mother serves as "Communications Chief" as well as chief critic. Drawing on sample conversations from an ongoing study at Georgetown University, from memoirs and from TV documentaries (including An American Family, which examined the Loud family of Santa Barbara in 1973 and reveals how little family interactions have changed in the past 30 years), she convincingly shows how threads of family history and emotion add weight and complexity to everyday exchanges. Each conversation, she argues, carries meaning both in its actual words and in the underlying relationship and attitudes it expresses (e.g., "I didn't criticize you. I just asked a question"). She also shows how speakers may use language for connection and control, influencing shifts in family alignment. Like its predecessor, this book is neither scholarly nor overtly self-help-oriented. Its advice is embedded in its examples, though occasionally Tannen offers explicit guidelines, such as rules for fair fighting: stick to the facts; avoid insults, sarcasm and exaggeration. Parents of teenagers may also find some good insights in Tannen's clear-sighted analysis of how clashing frames of reference undermine communication. Agent, Suzanne Gluck; first serial to Good Housekeeping and Modern Maturity. (May 10)Forecast: Tannen's 13-city author tour (including a May 14 appearance on the Today Show) will help ensure this book's visibility, but it's more likely to match the respectable (but not stellar) numbers for Talking 9 to 5, her book on workplace speaking styles, than those for You Just Don't Understand.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345407520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345407528
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sandra D. Peters on May 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From my studies in psychology and in my role as a counsellor, numerous people tell me, "My wife/husband/partner does not understand me," or "My children will not listen." More often than not, it is the wrong interpretation of your verbal and non-verbal message that is the root of the problem and not the ability to understand or listen. It is not always what you say that is causing the problem but often it is a matter of how you say it. What does your facial expression and body language imply as the words are spoken? Are you expressing yourself in a respectful manner? Before you respond, do you choose your words carefully? Have you taken the time not only to listen but to actually hear and try to understand the feelings of the speaker from their point of view? Everyone has an opinion. You do not necessarily have to agree with it, but you should respect their feelings even if you do not share their point of view.
In this book, Deborah Tanner, reveals part of the communication problem and ways to improve your skills. From a psychological point of you, our needs change through the ageing process. As children, we are raised in a submissive nature; our parent(s) pass on many of their strengths and weaknesses, much of which is adopted from THEIR parent(s). We, as adults, take what we have learned from our upbringing and often hear ourselves, through our dominant parental role, repeating what our parents have said to us, even though as children we said to ourselves, "When I grow up, I am never going to say that to my children!" Some negative behaviours teach us valuable lessons and, if we are wise, we learn from hurt and rejection not to pass those negative inherited traits on to our children.
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Format: Paperback
I cannot express how much this book has helped me understand what's going on in my family. A lot of arguments in my family center around who said what, how they said it, and why they said it. And Tannen provides almost all of the tools necessary for us to even think about reconciling.
This really is an enlightening book. What it does do, is explain what goes on in a particular aspect of any family - she explains how family arguments and conversations work, why some things are said but other left unsaid, and provides some suggestions and advice for going back and fixing some of those misunderstandings. She provides a really comprehensive overview of whole family setups, organizations, and tons of possible situations.
She doesn't say "here's how to fix your problems - they shall all be solved". She can't - she's not your own psychologist. But there is so much information to work with, that for a majority of families this will definitely provide a really good and solid basis for reconciling, and even allowing family members to start talking to each other civily again.
Tannen has done tons of research, and provides many examples from all types of families throughout the whole book - grandparents, partners, families with children, families without children, cross-culture families, etc.. I do have to completely agree with another reader that the examples Tannen gives could have been plucked straight from my life. I found one line in particular that could actually explain away years of misunderstanding between two whole branches of my family, myself included. It's also a very fast read - I read it through in just a few days, and I'm a slow reader.
If anyone in your family is even remotely having difficulties talking to others in your family, you should buy this book. I can't tell you how much it's helped me already. Had to buy two more copies of the book for other family members to "borrow".
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Format: Hardcover
This book deserves more than five stars for its original, powerful ideas and suggestions for how to have closer, happier relationships in your family. This book is Relationship Rescue for the family!
"Why does talk in the family so frequently go in circles, leaving us tied up in knots?" "When we talk to family members, we search for signs of love but become attuned to signs of disapproval." Our reaction is to "the meaning of the words spoken -- the message -- but also to what we think those words say about the relationship -- the metamessage." So each message needs to be analyzed for message and metamessage in terms of both connection (on a continuum from closeness to distance) and control (on a continium from superior-inferior to equality).
In this outstanding book, conversational analyst Deborah Tannen captures the verbal and mental essences of how to improve our family relationships. The book deals with those situations where the message is either positive or negative, and the overall impression (metamessage) is critical. These range from being praised for some menial accomplishment (with the implication that you are a loyal slave with little talent) to "I care, therefore I criticize" (usually from Mom) to sarcasm (usually from a spouse or teenager, suggesting you must be an idiot). The book looks at relationships with spouses, parents and children (from both directions), siblings, in-laws, and extends the consideration to the full dimensions of one's lifetime.
Perceptions change as we age, and adjustments are needed. A parent starts out as dominant, then the child wants equality (and no criticism), and eventually the child often becomes like a parent to parent who is in mental and physical decline.
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