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That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations with Others Paperback – August 3, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd (August 3, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853815128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853815126
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,516,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Part pop psychology, part sociology and part anthropology, this book by a linguistics professor at Georgetown University focuses on the uncomfortable moments when a conversation inexplicably breaks down, and suggests how such awkwardness can be avoided. Noting that there exist a plethora of books on public speaking, Tannen instead considers "private speaking," and particularly the "metamessages" we transmitwhat we say, our attitude toward those we speak with, and the specific occasioninvolving such elements as loudness, pitch and intonation. Using scenarios that illustrate communication gaps, Tannen also attempts to show readers how to save their marriages and triumph in job interviews. BOMC alternate. January 17
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Tannen, whose field is cross-cultural linguistics, focuses on conversational style rather than psychological content, and explains why good intentions are not enough. We begin all conversations with some expectation of how they will progress. If our expectations differ, unexpected responses seem irrational, and we may accuse each other of being deliberately obstructive. She emphasizes that there are no right or wrong ways to converse, only ways which work or don't work. By recognizing differences in style, and learning to work with them rather than against them, we can avoid misunderstanding. Tannen's writing is lively, she states her case clearly, and provides a fresh look at a subject which concerns us all. Recommended for popular collections. Margaret B. Allen, formerly with Bennington Free Lib., Vt.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It is a real eye-opener and a great help to understanding people better, period.
Jennifer Davis
Give insite on communication and how to communicate more effectively this book can help you create more effective messages and receive messages more effectively.
April Strano
This book puts into perspective every conversation you have ever had that you feel has gone wrong or right.
Bryan Alcorn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Dan Schwarcz on October 19, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
More than one newlywed couple I've talked to describes the first year as a difficult and challenging time, and the insights that this book gives can make the difference between being able to work through the issues and just running in place.
I read this book just after our honeymoon, and it was a revelation. Although both my wife and I had a wonderful relationship before we got married, we found ourselves having problems that neither of us understood after we wed. As I read this book I quickly saw that there were issues discussed that paralleled what we were going through. I loaned it to my wife, and now three years later we make it a point to add a copy to any wedding gift we give.
Once you read this book, you may see the communication in your own relationships with a clearer eye. Of course, that assumes that you actually understand the text, instead of (as two reviewers here do) simply skim it for evidence of some preconceived political agenda. People who see Feminist conspiracies around every corner will completely miss the point of this book, which is too bad. I suspect such folks don't have much luck understanding the women in their lives either.
A good example of the misreading that the Feminist-hunter did is in the claim that "she propells the notion that men are liguistically-challenged because they don't follow her prescribed patterns of femme-speak." Yet the whole point of Dr. Tannen's book is this: While indirect communication (more common among women) is as valid as more direct styles (more common among men), it is the way someone who speaks in one style perceives the messages from a person who uses another that causes problems.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Martin on February 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book does indeed have a narrow focus, but the subject of that focus--interpersonal communication--has far reaching implications in any type of human relationship. As was correctly stated by a previous reviewer, relationships often suffer from a variety of different problems, ranging from differences in personal habits, to differences in values, to differences in religious views, but that is more or less a given in any relationship, especially one in which people share a domicile. However, it is how those relationship partners choose to "deal" with their inevitable differences "communicatively" that will determine the ultimate success or failure of their relationship. Do they choose to disagree or argue endlessly? Do they insult each other, or call each other names? Do they try to talk over each other,or become violent? Or do they approach each other in cooperative manner, open to each other's different ideas and viewpoints, with a willingness to learn from each other?
What Tannen does in this book is show how some of the common communication differences between men and women in relationships have their basis in fundamental differences in the way men and women perceive each other, and relationships in general. And furthermore, that these fundamental differences, often hidden below the surface, can have profound, and often negative, effects on all kinds of relationships throughout a person's life, unless they are brought into the light of day. In effect, what Tannen is trying to do is to get people to be more aware of how they "habitually" communicate, the possible reasons why they communicate in those ways, and how the things they say and do may affect others.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C Olson on February 12, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is my favorite of Tannen's books. It makes some simple but important points about why people have trouble communicating. They talk differently.
My favorite comment was about people having different tolerances for pauses after the other person stops talking. For some people it is 10 seconds. For others it was nano-seconds. I wanted to encourage a quiet friend to talk. I found that by counting silently to ten after I finished talking before starting again, made him realize there was a gap to be filled there. An easy trick but I learned a lot from him and Tannen.
This is the book to give to friends and relatives, rather than her others that beat the differences between men and women into the ground. Simple but with a sweet and useful message.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dino Mavridis on July 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Deborah Tannen sure takes care of emphasizing her Ph.D degree in linguistics on the cover of every book she writes. And she has every reason to do that, since "That's Not What I Meant" is a book very influential and full of revelations about... talking.
Through many (very many) examples of everyday talk, Tannen... oops, sorry, Dr. Tannen ;-) explains how something very small we said can turn a whole conversation upside down, bringing the opposite result of what we expected. Be it between friends, lovers, or even diplomatic ambassadors, she shows how the way we talk - anything from the tone we say a word to a single finger's gesture - can change completely the meaning of our talk, and gives advice and suggestions on how to talk better and have more successful communication with everyone around us.
What I didn't particularly like about this book, is that Tannen is providing far more extensive examples of talk than she is providing explanations and solutions. She does explain things, and at the end, I did understand a lot of things I never really noticed about talking, but I certainly became a bit overwhelmed by the vast number of examples, and many times I couldn't focus on the main point.
However, this still is a pleasant book, that is easily and casually read at any time of the day. Given its low price and the practicality of its conclusions, I'd recommend it to anyone.
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More About the Author

Deborah Tannen is the acclaimed author of You Just Don't Understand, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly four years including eight months as #1; the ten-week New York Times bestseller You're Wearing THAT?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation; I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs and Kids When You're All Adults, which won the Books for a Better Life Award; Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work; That's Not What I Meant!; and many other books. A professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, she has written for and been featured in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Time, and Newsweek. She appears frequently on TV and radio, including such shows as 20/20, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Colbert Report, Nightline, Today, Good Morning America, and NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She is university professor and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, and has been McGraw Distinguished Lecturer at Princeton University. She lives with her husband in the Washington, D.C., area.