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That's Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships Paperback – July 5, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"We are, all of us, foreigners to each other: editor and writer, man and woman, Californian and New Yorker, friend and friend. Dr. Tannen shows us how different we are, and how to speak the same language."
Jack Rosenthal
Pultizer Prize winner and editor
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Deborah Tannen, who revolutionaized our thinking about relationships between women and men in her bestsller YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND, shows that conversational confusion between the sexes is only part of the picture. In THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT!, Dr. Tannen shows that growing up in different parts of the country, having different ethnic and class backgrounds, even age and indvidual personality, all contribute to different conversational styles. Entertaining and informative, this is an essential complement to psychological theories of human behavior. No one who has read Deborah Tannen's fascinating look at women and men will want to miss a word of it!

From the Back Cover

At home, on the job, in a personal relationship, it's often not what you say but how you say it that counts.

Deborah Tannen revolutionized our thinking about relationships between women and men in her #1 bestseller You Just Don't Understand. In That's Not What I Meant!, the internationally renowned sociolinguist and expert on communication demonstrates how our conversational signals—voice level, pitch and intonation, rhythm and timing, even the simple turns of phrase we choose—are powerful factors in the success or failure of any relationship. Regional speech characteristics, ethnic and class backgrounds, age, and individual personality all contribute to diverse conversational styles that can lead to frustration and misplaced blame if ignored—but provide tools to improve relationships if they are understood.

At once eye-opening, astute, and vastly entertaining, Tannen's classic work on interpersonal communication will help you to hear what isn't said and to recognize how your personal conversational style meshes or clashes with others. It will give you a new understanding of communication that will enable you to make the adjustments that can save a conversation . . . or a relationship.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Rei Rep edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062062999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062062994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I assign Tannen's That's Not What I Meant for my college students to read. They frequently report how reading and discussing it for our class has transformed their close relationships with friends and family - particularly with their spouses - as they're much better able to understand each other and how they and others communicate. Most say they can't wait to finish reading the book so they can make their husband or wife read it. Occasionally, a student will complain (unfairly, perhaps) that Tannen uses too many examples, but most recognize that each example serves to illustrate a concept Tannen discusses, keeping the book grounded in the concrete and tangible and staying away from getting too abstract. From an instructor's perspective, I see Tannen's examples as well-balanced with the rest of the book's content; there are enough examples to make the concepts clear but not so much that one gets bored waiting for her to make her point. Her prose is clear and concise, and the book is organized so that the later concepts build upon the earlier ones in a helpful and logical way.

Tannen helps us understand how we don't just pay attention to the words spoken: in fact, we pay less attention to the message than what she calls the "metamessage": the implied and inferred meanings that each utterance evokes. Language is a lot more complex than we think, and by understanding that, we'll be much better able to understand each other - and understand why we sometimes seem to "click" so well with someone we've only just met, or why conversations sometimes feel awkward or go very badly awry (and how to avoid or at least mitigate such failures). For example, with the (now-cliche'd) question "Does this dress make me look fat?
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I am so glad that the publishers released this book again. I have seen Tannen speak about the book's content on a video recording of a talk given (I think) at Georgetown. The content is so enlightening; I am convinced that her work could save many a marriage, if studied. I teach conflict management, and I am adding this to my required reading list.
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By Geneva E. on February 11, 2014
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Fun info that will let you take a moment before you start cutting your partner/friend/lover/friend down for saying something you thought was rude or thoughtless. Lets you see how a bit of understanding and compassion can go a long ways to make life with others humans more enjoyable. Definitely a positive message to get anyone out of prejudgements ;)
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As someone who has deeply studied linguistics and who has been lectured by Tannen and her protégés, I think that this book a great high-level book about cross-cultural communication. Tannen's writing is clear, easy to follow, and makes for a great light reading; her style also is able to capture more complex linguistic theories (e.g. pragmatics and discourse analysis) succinctly and present them in a publicly digestible manner. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who shows interest in cross-cultural communications.

That said, I feel like Tannen bases her theories a little too firmly on anecdotal evidence, whether those experiences be hers or her friends'/students'. In addition, her theories can be too high-level and loose. Finally, I think she could have done a better job at explaining her notions of positive and negative face, as well as how those can play out in social situations.
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This book is incredible... after sitting in meetings that ended in great misunderstandings and lots of finger pointing and name calling, I told the
group I had a book for them to read. At least one took it to heart and read the book and maybe one other skimmed the book but now the meet-
ings are respectful and thoughtful most of the time. Until one learns about framing what they are saying ... confusion, hurt and angered feelings will be apart of the conversation. If you have trouble being understood, please read Deborah Tannen's book. You will never have to say, "That's Not What I Meant!"
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Format: Paperback
This book may not be the most exciting read . . . but the information soaks in usefully. It's a great help in not taking personally situations that would have been previously experienced as hurtful and offensive. The information doesn't necessarilly suggest solutions; but it certainly offers a way out of schismogeny.
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My title says it all. What's especially relevant to me is that I've had a traumatic brain injury & have residual deficits with expressing myself clearly so that the person with whom I'm communicating understands the intent of my message. This has been an ongoing issue. The book is easy to read, understand & put into practice. It has already helped me with more clearly communicating the intent of my message so the other person understands what I'm truly trying to communicate correctly. I'm certainly not perfect & will have to be continuously mindful of what I'm learning in this book for the rest of my life (due to my traumatic brain injury), but others have noticed an improvement in the clarity of the messages I'm trying to communicate. I'm very thankful for the help this book is giving me as a person who has been misunderstood many times (sadly, to my disadvantage) due to the permanent damage I've encountered to the area of my brain responsible for communication. If this book has helped me, one who has had a traumatic brain injury, I can only imagine how it would tremendously help anyone who has not encountered a traumatic brain injury.
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