Abstinence, Truth and Silence: A Modern Look on Relationships Essay Example



During our readings, “Sex, Lies and Conversation” jumped out at me because some of the claims the author made seemed very accusing. We will discuss some of her points that seem to be one-sided or at the very least belong to a small percentage of women. Some of the points that I have decided to try and counter are how expecting a partner to continuously carry a conversation is ridiculous, the misconception of listening, how the perception of someone being distracted could upset others, and how to communicate one must be open to other views besides theirs.

In Deborah Tannen’s’ “Sex, Lies and Conversation” she is accusing men directly for lack of communication in most marriages and relationships and makes no effort to put any culpability on women. Communication is a two-way street and takes both sides to accomplish. Both parties should contribute to communicating important and unimportant subjects. Although I do not completely agree with everything that she has written, I do see what she was trying to get across.

When we get home from work or a day at school, we want to sit and relax for a few minutes or a couple hours, be us male or female. We do not want to walk in the door and immediately initiate a conversation about our day. We all have our routines that we perform directly after entering our residence and it is not until we complete these routines that we would be ready to be social. Deborah Tannen (1990) has quoted one of her group attendees as saying “She’s the talker in our family. When I come home from work I have nothing to say. If she didn’t keep the conversation going, we’d spend the whole evening in silence.” She goes on to reinforce this by explaining that women want their husbands to be conversational partners before all else. This is absurd. Conversation, as beneficial as it could be to relationships, should not be demanded. If there are things that need to be talked about so be it. We should not become upset or feel unwanted because our significant other wants to just come home and sit in silence or at the very least have brief conversations. This is what hanging out with friends is for.

When out in public, males seem to speak more than they do at home and seemingly try to have all attention on them (Tannen, 1990). When around others, I personally try to have gratifying debates on various subjects. Although, if the conversation is not entertaining or stimulating enough neither gender will listen, and distractions may occur.

Whether it is your phone, checking your email and text messages, or just looking around at your environment, distractions are an everyday part of life. Practically everyone has their own struggles with it. Coping mechanisms can help cut down or eliminate these distractions.

 A young woman's boyfriend would lay down and put his arm over his face whenever she tried talking to him while the girlfriend would get upset with this behavior (Tannen, 1990). This was his way of eliminating and coping with any distractions that would have prevented him from listening to what his girlfriend had to say. However, during conversation, being distracted does not necessarily mean that one is not listening. It is almost like multitasking at your place of employment.

Each person has his or her own way of listening and following along during a conversation, like a student taking notes or doodling in their notebook while the teacher is lecturing. Yet getting a question correct when called upon because the teacher feels she is not paying attention or listening. As Tannen (1990) cited from Linguist Lynette Hirschman, “Women want more listener-noise and less silent attention.” Tannen describes silent attention as the lack of feedback or attempts of letting the woman know that the man is paying attention.

I have not personally had conversations with women where they became upset due to lack of listener-noise nor have I had a woman question me if I was paying attention because I was not making noises during her round of the discussion. This seems to be an isolated need. If one is really concerned about the other party following along, when they are asked a question, an opinion or input and none can be provided then we know they were not paying attention. Personally, I feel we males appreciate the simple head nod or hand gesture to let us know that you are understanding and following what is being said instead of interrupting every few seconds with unneeded noises or retorts. Perhaps there are some women who prefer their sentences interrupted for need and want of attention to themselves.

 Listening requires us to actively concentrate, to form meaning and understanding of what is being heard. When couples say that their others do not listen to them, we need to ask several questions: Are you trying to have a serious dialogue while either party is highly involved in something? Are we trying to discuss a problem that is either affecting or going to affect a relationship? Is it entertaining or a mutual interest for both parties? In my opinion, if couples were to ask themselves and answer these questions before starting a dialogue most miscommunications would not happen and both parties would feel that their voices are being heard and understood.

Tannen (1990) claimed “Many men see their conversational duty to point out the other side of an argument and it is heard as disloyalty by women. It is not that women don’t want to see other points of view, but rather phrased as suggestions and inquiries.” With this statement being written, it tells us that a woman is not wanting to have an actual discussion or to have other views phrased as suggestions and inquiries, but rather that her views are the only ones that matter.

I do not agree with this statement. The whole point of an argument or a discussion is for both sides to be heard and deliberated civilly. Conversations cannot be started and ended because someone is not sharing the same views as the person who initiated it in the beginning; it is completely immature. Having a conversation and sharing ideals or various views, not only helps to strengthen a relationship but also can help others learn new things. 

Ultimately, Tannen does have some good points. I personally feel that her article was an attack on men, while not acknowledging the guilt women have with communication problems. While considering when this was written and published, it still feels a little antiquated for the period. Women are equals and are still trying to this day to prove this. She seems to have given credit to most stereotypes that men associate with females: delicate, fragile and emotional human beings to name a few. If given time I do feel with research and better disclosure of data, more of her text could be proven extinct.