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The Argument Culture

Moving from Debate to Dialogue

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Paperback published by Ballantine Books (Random House Publishing Group)

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About This Book
In her number one bestseller, You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen showed why talking to someone of the other sex can be like talking to someone from another world. Her bestseller Talking from 9 to 5 did for workplace communication what You Just Don't Understand did for personal relationships. Now Tannen is back with another groundbreaking book, this time widening her lens to examine the way we communicate in public--in the media, in politics, in our courtrooms and classrooms--once again letting us see in a new way forces that have been powerfully shaping our lives.
        The Argument Culture is about a pervasive warlike atmosphere that makes us approach anything we need to accomplish as a fight between two opposing sides. The argument culture urges us to regard the world--and the people in it--in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done: The best way to explore an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover the news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as "both sides"; the best way to settle disputes is litigation that pits one party against the other; the best way to begin an essay is to oppose someone; and the best way to show you're really thinking is to criticize and attack.
        Sometimes these approaches work well, but often they create more problems than they solve. Our public encounters have become more and more like having an argument with a spouse: You're not trying to understand what the other person is saying; you're just trying to win the argument. But just as spouses have to learn ways of settling differences without inflicting real damage on each other, so we, as a society, have to find constructive and creative ways of resolving disputes and differences. Public discussions require making an argument for a point of view, not having an argument--as in having a fight.
        The war on drugs, the war on cancer, the battle of the sexes, politicians' turf battles--in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and shape our thinking. Tannen shows how deeply entrenched this cultural tendency is, the forms it takes, and how it affects us every day--sometimes in useful ways, but often causing, rather than avoiding, damage. In the argument culture, the quality of information we receive is compromised, and our spirits are corroded by living in an atmosphere of unrelenting contention.
        Tannen explores the roots of the argument culture, the role played by gender, and how other cultures suggest alternative ways to negotiate disagreement and mediate conflicts--and make things better, in public and in private, wherever people are trying to resolve differences and get things done. The Argument Culture is a remarkable book that will change forever the way you perceive the world. You will listen to our public voices in a whole new way.
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In her number one bestseller, You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen showed why talking to someone of the other sex can be like talking to someone from another world. Her bestseller Talking from 9 to 5 did for workplace communication what You Just Don't Understand did for personal relationships. Now Tannen is back with another groundbreaking book, this time widening her lens to examine the way we communicate in public--in the media, in politics, in our courtrooms and classrooms--once again letting us see in a new way forces that have been powerfully shaping our lives.
        The Argument Culture is about a pervasive warlike atmosphere that makes us approach anything we need to accomplish as a fight between two opposing sides. The argument culture urges us to regard the world--and the people in it--in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done: The best way to explore an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover the news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as "both sides"; the best way to settle disputes is litigation that pits one party against the other; the best way to begin an essay is to oppose someone; and the best way to show you're really thinking is to criticize and attack.
        Sometimes these approaches work well, but often they create more problems than they solve. Our public encounters have become more and more like having an argument with a spouse: You're not trying to understand what the other person is saying; you're just trying to win the argument. But just as spouses have to learn ways of settling differences without inflicting real damage on each other, so we, as a society, have to find constructive and creative ways of resolving disputes and differences. Public discussions require making an argument for a point of view, not having an argument--as in having a fight.
        The war on drugs, the war on cancer, the battle of the sexes, politicians' turf battles--in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and shape our thinking. Tannen shows how deeply entrenched this cultural tendency is, the forms it takes, and how it affects us every day--sometimes in useful ways, but often causing, rather than avoiding, damage. In the argument culture, the quality of information we receive is compromised, and our spirits are corroded by living in an atmosphere of unrelenting contention.
        Tannen explores the roots of the argument culture, the role played by gender, and how other cultures suggest alternative ways to negotiate disagreement and mediate conflicts--and make things better, in public and in private, wherever people are trying to resolve differences and get things done. The Argument Culture is a remarkable book that will change forever the way you perceive the world. You will listen to our public voices in a whole new way.
Product Details
Paperback (384 pages)
Published: February 9, 1999
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9780345407511
Other books byDeborah Tannen
  • You're Wearing That?

    You're Wearing That?
    Understanding Mothers and Daughters in...
    Deborah Tannen's #1 New York Times bestseller You Just Don’t Understand revolutionized communication between women and men. Now, in her most provocative and engaging book to date, she takes on what is potentially the most fraught and passionate connection of women’s lives: the mother-daughter relationship. It was Tannen who first showed us that men and women speak different languages. Mothers and daughters speak the same language–but still often misunderstand each other, as they struggle to find the right balance between closeness and independence. Both mothers and daughters want to be seen for who they are, but tend to see the other as falling short of who she should be. Each overestimates the other’s power and underestimates her own. Why do daughters complain that their mothers always criticize, while mothers feel hurt that their daughters shut them out? Why do mothers and daughters critique each other on the Big Three–hair, clothes, and weight–while longing for approval and understanding? And why do they scrutinize each other for reflections of themselves? Deborah Tannen answers these and many other questions as she explains why a remark that would be harmless coming from anyone else can cause an explosion when it comes from your mother or your daughter. She examines every aspect of this complex dynamic, from the dark side that can shadow a woman throughout her life, to the new technologies like e-mail and instant messaging that are transforming mother-daughter communication. Most important, she helps mothers and daughters understand each other, the key to improving their relationship. With groundbreaking insights, pitch-perfect dialogues, and deeply moving memories of her own mother, Tannen untangles the knots daughters and mothers can get tied up in. Readers will appreciate Tannen’s humor as they see themselves on every page and come away with real hope for breaking down barriers and opening new lines of communication. Eye-opening and heartfelt, You’re Wearing That? illuminates and enriches one of the most important relationships in our lives. “Tannen analyzes and decodes scores of conversations between moms and daughters. These exchanges are so real they can make you squirm as you relive the last fraught conversation you had with your own mother or daughter. But Tannen doesn't just point out the pitfalls of the mother-daughter relationship, she also provides guidance for changing the conversations (or the way that we feel about the conversations) before they degenerate into what Tannen calls a mutually aggravating spiral, a "self-perpetuating cycle of escalating responses that become provocations." – The San Francisco Chronicle  From the Hardcover edition.

    You Were Always Mom's Favorite

    You Were Always Mom's Favorite
    Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives
    Dr. Deborah Tannen, New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster hits You Just Don't Understand and You're Wearing THAT? delivers the last word on sisters.Communications expert Dr. Deborah Tannen turns her witty and wise eye to sisters as she shares insights, anecdotes, and practical solutions to help us understand the special gifts and strains of sister relationships.Sisters can be mirrors in which we see ourselves, yardsticks by which we measure our lives—or everything we can't be, because she got there first. Sisters are inevitably in competition, even as they are fellow travelers on the same road. And how sisters communication—"Sisterspeak"—can be straight talk, close and supportive, or talk that keeps you in your place.In You Were Always Mom's Favorite, Tannen helps sisters everywhere translate "Sisterspeak" to navigate one of the most powerful and precious human relationships.

    I Only Say This Because I Love You

    I Only Say This Because I Love You
    How the Way We Talk Can Make or Break Family...
    Why does talk in families so often go in circles, leaving us tied up in knots? In this illuminating book, Deborah Tannen, the linguist and and bestselling author of You Just Don't Understand and many other books, reveals why talking to family members is so often painful and problematic even when we're all adults. Searching for signs of acceptance and belonging, we find signs of disapproval and rejection. Why do the seeds of family love so often yield a harvest of criticism and judgment? In I Only Say This Because I Love You, Tannen shows how important it is, in family talk, to learn to separate word meanings, or messages, from heart meanings, or metamessages — unstated but powerful meanings that come from the history of our relationships and the way things are said. Presenting real conversations from people's lives, Tannen reveals what is actually going on in family talk, including how family conversations must balance the longing for connection with the desire for control, as we struggle to be close without giving up our freedom. This eye-opening book explains why grown women so often feel criticized by their mothers; and why mothers feel they can't open their mouths around their grown daughters; why growing up male or female, or as an older or younger sibling, results in different experiences of family that persist throughout our lives; and much, much more. By helping us to understand and redefine family talk, Tannen provides the tools to improve relationships with family members of every age.

    You Just Don't Understand

    You Just Don't Understand
    Women and Men in Conversation
    Women and men live in different worlds...made of different words. Spending nearly four years on the New York Times bestseller list, including eight months at number one, You Just Don't Understand is a true cultural and intellectual phenomenon. This is the book that brought gender differences in ways of speaking to the forefront of public awareness. With a rare combination of scientific insight and delightful, humorous writing, Tannen shows why women and men can walk away from the same conversation with completely different impressions of what was said. Studded with lively and entertaining examples of real conversations, this book gives you the tools to understand what went wrong -- and to find a common language in which to strengthen relationships at work and at home. A classic in the field of interpersonal relations, this book will change forever the way you approach conversations.

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