Deborah Tannen


That's Not What I Meant!:
How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships

Often it's not what you say but how you say it. The part of the country you come from, your ethnic background, age, class, gender, and individual personality - these and many other influences result in different habits and assumptions about how to say what you mean.  When conversational styles differ, you may draw erroneous conclusions about another person's intentions and abilities - and they may walk away with similarly erroneous impressions of you.  For example, when two people have different ideas about how long a pause to leave between turns, each is likely to blame the other: “You don't give me a chance to talk! You're not doing your part in this conversation!” A person who prefers indirectness feels ignored by someone who expects ideas to be stated outright.  One person thinks asking personal questions shows interest while another finds such questions intrusive.  Knowing what conversational style is and how it works gives you a revolutionary new way of understanding what goes on when you talk to others- and that understanding gives you tools you can use when you're not happy with the way a conversation, or a relationships, is going.  This book is essential for professional as well as personal communication, across cultures and at home.


“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, Pulitzer Prize Winner & editor, The New York Times

 “Deborah Tannen shows us why conversations, and consequently friendships, marriages and even jobs, can break down even with the best intentions, and how linguistics can come to the rescue.” —Jeremy Campbell, Author of the Grammatical Man
“Offers intriguing insights into where we go wrong with language and how problems get started.” Mademoiselle

“Dr. Tannen enlivens the science of linguistics with humanity and humor. That's Not What I Meant! impels us to listen to ourselves...and take heed of what we hear.” —Andrew Hacker
“Many talk about language and discourse as forces in our lives, but Tannen is one of the few who locates the significance of linguistics where it belongs, in our ways of speaking to each other.” —Dell Hymes, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania


Deborah Tannen - That's Not What I Meant!:  How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships


Buy The Book:
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Also Available:
Abridged version read by author

Foreign Editions:
Argentina, Paidos
China, Yuan-Liou
Denmark, Munksgaard
Germany, Kabel
Greece, Enalios
Hungary, Tinta Konyvkiado
Indonesia, Gramedia Pustaka Utama
Japan, Kinseido, Kodansha
Netherlands, Bert Bakker
Norway, Cappelen
Poland, Zysk i Ska
Saudi Arabia, Jarir
Spain, Paidos
Sweden, Wahlstrom & Widstrand
United Kingdom, J.M. Dent; Virago

© 2009 Deborah Tannen