Tannen Interview

Tannen Interview

H: What got you interested in the subject of communications between genders?

DT: After graduating from college in 1966, I lived in Greece for two years where I became involved in issues of cross-cultural communication. I was teaching English as a foreign language; a lot of the people who do that are trained in linguistics. That's how I first discovered that there was such a thing.
Back in the States, I got a Master's Degree in English, taught remedial writing and English for foreign students, then decided to get a Ph.D. in linguistics. I attended a linguistics institute in 1973. Luckily the institute was devoted to language in social context that summer. Had I gone another summer it's quite likely I would have concluded linguistics was not for me.

H: It seems to me your books are essentially American. Can you imagine works that foster communication between genders being so popular in Europe at this time?

DT: For me, the framework for gender communication starts with cross-cultural communication, people of different regional and ethnic backgrounds who have different conversational styles. Such variation is more common here; Americans have such diverse ethnic backgrounds. I'm sure if I lived in France I'd know of variation there too, but it's possible there's something particularly American about it.
People have also remarked that it's not surprising it's a woman who's saying, let's understand each other. One of the points I make in my work is that there's an axis ranging from status to connection, and it's more common for men to be focused on the status dimension, more common for women to be focused on connection. So saying let's understand each other, we're not as different as you think, let's not hate each other-that would make sense for a woman.

H: Can you switch styles? Can you go from talking female to talking male?

DT: Anyone can change styles if they want to, but there are limits to how much I would want to change. I certainly have...

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