Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

That’s Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen

That’s Not What I Meant!: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships is an oldie but a goodie. It breaks down some of the reasons that what we mean to say is not what is heard. 

One problem is our conflicting needs for independence and solidarity. This is a struggle I can see myself fighting in my relationships.  I want to be part of a unit–to feel safe, secure, and understood–but at the same time I’m afraid of losing myself or appearing dependent.  This leads to couching conversations in terms of the one desire while secretly seeking out the other.  The old “What do you want to do?” is a landmine waiting to be set off by hidden agendas.  We can’t say what it is we want to do in explicit terms because explicitness contradicts solidarity, besides which stating exactly what we want comes off as either seeking approval (contradicting our own independence) or as dictating (contridicting the other person’s indpendence).  So we do the “I don’t know.  What do you want to do” dance.

The author also talks about meta-messages (the message behind the message) and how we assume the other person is getting the same meta-message we’re sending, although often they aren’t, which leads to the worst kind of miscommunications where everyone’s intentions are good and yet ill-feelings still result. 

A funny example of this happened shortly after I read the book.  John and I had a bunch of food in the car to snack on.  He was going through it and asked me “Do you want the apple?”  I didn’t.  In fact, I’d already said I wasn’t hungry and wasn’t going to have anything, but his specifically asking me about the apple made me think he wanted me to take it.  I thought his meta-message was “I’m confirming our solidarity by offering you what I think you’d like best.” So I said “sure.”  It then transpired that actually he wanted the apple.  His intended meta-message was “I’m going to eat the apple if you don’t mind.”  To him, when I took the apple, I was intentionally taking the one thing he’d said he wanted.

It was just like the examples in the book, many of which had seemed downright silly until I found myself caught in the middle of one.  Makes you wonder how often these types of miscommunications go undiscovered.  Luckily we caught this one and John got the apple.  I told him about this book and we had a good talk about mixed up meta-messages.    A few days later we were eating dinner and he asked me if I wanted more of something and then laughed and said he really meant it this time.

Since we (the larger we, not just me and John) aren’t likely to ever develop the ability to read other people’s meta-messages perfectly (this being akin to reading their minds), it’s important that we try to give each other credit for good intentions and not jump straight to the worst interpretation. 

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!