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Excerpt 3 from "Men & Women: Talking Together" with Deborah Tannen and Robert Bly

Posted November 04 2012

Cover- bly-tannen-Men&WomenTalkingTogether In this insightful transcribed excerpt from "Men & Women: Talking Together", men's movement pioneer reflects on Deborah Tannen's classic book on male/female communication -- You Just Don't Understand -- and how Tannen's observations play out in his own marriage.

Let’s go on a bit and I just want to say a few more words about her book. The first time I came in contact with her, my wife and I were having dinner up in northern Minnesota and someone started to read out of the book. We both fell off our chairs laughing because of every mistake we had made including every misunderstanding, and I remember the first one that was said was this one: The woman says to the man, “Would you like to stop for a drink before we get home?” I think she is asking for information.

I check my body. My body says, “No, I don’t want a drink.” So I reported. I say, “No thanks, I don’t want a drink.” And that’s it. I thought I was doing what was asked of me. And it turned out that she was imagining maybe just a little conversation before this day ends, maybe. And of course, when I say that I don’t want a drink, then she interprets that the way they do.

So now, when she says, “Would you like a drink?” then I check my body. What? You’re sitting in the wrong part of the hall, that’s the problem. So when she says, “Would you like a drink?” Now I know what I have to say. I have to say, well I checked my body and no I don’t want a drink but I will be happy to sit down with a little Perrier and talk over what asses we’ve been today. That’s better.
 
Another thing that I thought was wonderful in her book was when she talked about the difference between… well this is how it begins. The woman says to the man, “Why don’t you ever talk to me?” She says this at home. “Why don’t you ever talk to me?” Then they go to a party and it turns out he is giving this long lecture on the Galapagos territories, you know? To thirty people. And she says, “Well how come you talk to them but you don’t talk to me?” Can you feel a little dynamite in there? Or in this case you talk to a thousand people and you don’t talk to me.
 
Ya, that’s right. Why can you talk to them? So, those are hard questions. But she gave a wonderful answer to that. There is a difference between rapport talk when women use conversation to gain rapport, to increase the unity between two people, to gain a rapport. Men may use it for a report. I’ll give a report on the Galapagos territories. And nobody knows what this means. But the man you see when you are sitting home -- there is nothing to report about. So, when you get with three, four, or ten other people, then your adrenaline rises and then you realize that you can talk about how much you love the world, which includes the Galapagos territories.

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