Summary Analysis Response to Men and Women in Conversation

What is a Summary, Analysis, Response Essay?

Summary, Analysis, Response Papers are a way to understand and think about what you read. These papers can be assigned as part of a research project. My College English students learn to thoroughly understand their sources by writing a 1-2 page paper on each source which:

  • Summarizes: Write the main ideas of the article in your own words.
  • Analyzes: Describe who the author is and what audience they are trying to persuade this article. Evaluate the structure of the text and the techniques of argument the author has used and how well the article is written to persuade that audience.
  • Responds: Explain your own thoughts about this article. Evaluate what you think on this issue and relate it to your own experiences or other things you have read. Tell how you can use this article in your research paper.

The following is a sample Summary, Analysis, Response essay about an interesting article,"Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other," by Deborah Tannen. The article originally appeared in The Washinton Post, and is frequently included in College English Textbooks, but can also be found on Deborah Tannen's website.

Analyzing Audience of Text

Couple estranged. Tannen suggests misunderstanding is at the heart of most marriage problems.
Couple estranged. Tannen suggests misunderstanding is at the heart of most marriage problems. | Source

Summary of "Sex, Lies and Conversation"

In "Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other," linguist Deborah Tannen argues that the problems of men and women in marriage often stem from the fact that they misunderstand what the other person is really trying to say. Tannen notes that her own research concluded that women's most frequent complaint in marriage was that their husbands did not listen to them, but that when she examined actual conversations, she found that the problem was not that men don't listen, but that they listen differently.

Using her own research and that of other psychologists and sociologists, Tannen outlines the idea that men and women are raised to communicate differently. Little girls bond by sharing secrets and comforting each other by sharing stories, looking into one another's eyes, and becoming intimate through vulnerability. Boys, on the other hand, live in a hierarchical world where they need to struggle to find their place. Tannen's research shows that men do bond, but it is by negotiating in a more competitive environment where listening for too long makes them feel they are put down, and where they share problems in order to have a friend give them solutions, or to be reassured the problem isn't important.

These differences in expectations about close relationships, Tannen concludes, causes men and women to be frustrated in intimate relationships with the opposite sex, especially marriage. However, Tannen reassures us, learning about these communication differences can help couples to say what they really mean and hear what the other person is really trying to communicate.

Tannen asks us to move away from psychological models of relationships which assign blame to one sex or the other, and to instead move to a sociolinguistic understanding of communication between the sexes. Ideally, couples can adapt to one another's styles, but also understand when it is more effective to get some communication needs met by other friends. Ultimately, Tannen seeks to relieve the pressure on communication in marriage by giving couples more realistic expectations.

Tannen Lecture on Differences in Boys and Girls Conversations

Example Analysis

What is the Context of Publication and Author Purpose?

The argument of "Sex, Lies and Conversation" is one that Tannen has written about at length in her academic work and in her bestselling 1990 book, You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation. This article was written for The Washington Post at the time of her book's publication and is a summary of her main ideas as well as an advertisement for her book.

How well does the Author appeal to the Audience?

Generally, a linguist doesn't speak to a mass audience, and so Tannen's attempt to apply the discourse of linguistic studies to everyday life is a bit audacious, but her use of everyday examples, such as the talkative man at a dinner party who is silent at home, and the woman who feels her boyfriend is ignoring her when he lies down when she is speaking makes her work accessible for her intended audience, a typical married couple. Moreover, Tannen for the most part avoids academic terms (although she can't help but make a jab at psychologists and their "mechanical engineering" which she suggests tend to evolve into a blame game) and presents her arguments in common language that her audience can understand, even ending with a pithy re-writing of an old favorite: "Like charity, successful cross-cultural communication should begin at home."

How Effective is Article for the Audience?

While this article doesn't fully explain how a couple can actually achieve that effective cross-cultural communication, Tannen does give a few specific tips such as not assuming that your spouse isn't listening just because they don't give you the non-verbal cues you expect. Primarily, this article makes the reader consider re-thinking their attitudes and actions towards communicating with the opposite sex, and, moreover, makes the reader interested in reading more about Tannen's ideas, which is, of course, one of her purposes in writing the article.

Men and Women in Communication

Elderly Married Couple:  Communicating effectively is key for a long marriage
Elderly Married Couple: Communicating effectively is key for a long marriage | Source

How do You like Friends to Help?

When you share a problem with a friend, do you want them to:

  • Sympathize by telling you a story of a similar problem
  • Give you suggestions for how to solve the problem
  • Just listen carefully and sympathetically
  • Tell you not to worry about it so much, it isn't that bad.
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Example Response

Personal Reaction to Article

After reading this article, I began to think about my own communication with my husband in the previous week. As a matter of fact, we had experienced a miscommunication which was exactly the type Tannen describes. Thinking the matter through from the lens of the differences in communication styles that this article presents actually helped me to clarify why my husband had been upset, and why my response had not satisfied it.

How Article will help in Essay

This article will be useful in my paper exploring the question, "How can a couple have a marriage that lasts a lifetime?" because it will help me explain that divorce is not inevitable and that there are steps that couples can take to avoid the misunderstandings which often lead to hurt feelings, blame, and eventual estrangement.

How Men Talk

Men learn hierarchical socialization and conversation
Men learn hierarchical socialization and conversation | Source

Who is Deborah Tannen?

Deborah Tannen is a linguistics professor who is well known for writing popular books to explain how differences in communication styles can create problems in communication. The main point she wants to communicate in most of her work is that communication problems can often be cleared up if people are taught to read the way other people communicate differently. She suggests that we often read other people based on our own cultural, or gender-specific beliefs and practices of communication which include not only what is said but also:

  • how something is said
  • what is not said
  • the tone of voice
  • the loudness of speech
  • gestures
  • whether we look at someone or not
  • body posture
  • how close we stand to someone

What is Your Response?

What do you think about the ideas in Deborah Tannen's article? Do you think that men and women really do communicate differently? Do you have any personal experiences you'd like to share? I'd love for you to add your response in the comments below.

More by this Author


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States Author

Grand old lady--I love your comments. It is true that we often feel the love of our husband or wife but wished they would show it a different way. Yet it does help to understand that what they are doing is love!

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

Yes, men and women do like to communicate differently. Men like to do things together, w0men like to chat. Men will talk to their friends about politics or the news, women may also do the same but somehow the treatment is different. Sometimes men just don't want to hear their wife talk. They are just satisfied that the wife is beside the. But I insist that my husband listens to me talk -- and sing, and he lends me a few precious seconds. But he also buys my afternoon snacks everyday and always knows what I want, and he takes care of my medicines and watches over me like a hawk. He is protective and doesn't like my riding the bus, so he will drive me instead. That's how he loves. But sometimes I still wish he'd listen morre or at least let me finish a song.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

What an interesting conversation on the difference between men and women when communicating. Tannen had some valid observations and theories on this topic. This is a great article for teachers as it helps them to understand how to teach with clarity.

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States Author

RonElFran--great example of how Tannen's ideas actually do help to explain interactions we often see. One of my co-workers said she loves teaching this essay because it really is one that changes the way you look at life and other people.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Fascinating subject. After watching the video, with Tannen saying males use communication to essentially try to top one another, I couldn't help but think of the uproar caused by Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks in a postgame interview. He shouted how he was the best at his position, and his opponent was nobody. Fits perfectly with what Tannen is saying. Voted up as interesting and useful.

Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

A fascinating article Virginia Lynne, comprising an equally engrossing ‘ Sex, Lies And Conversation ‘ link by Deborah Tannen.

The sentence in which she touched upon, in relation to ‘ participatory listenership ‘ of female to female conversation shed a little light on the matter ( from a male perspective ), and also broaching how ‘ cross-cultural communication ‘ is instrumental in helping to keep healthy marriages together, seeing as the divorce rate numbers seem to be so shockingly high, according to the data relayed.

The lack of aforesaid communication seems to be endemic in the demise of such an honourable and cherished institution, and any illumination which can be further cast upon such matters, just has to count and make a significant difference; perhaps even drastically reducing the divorce rates brought about by infidelity, alienation and hard hearts; optimistically, maybe eradicating it altogether, but at least reducing to a bare minimum through it finally giving way to unpopularity.

I sincerely believe that most couples have the wherewithal, and are conscientious and capable enough to manage to lick this ‘ Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ‘ attitude, and armed with the correct tools and informed by proper education/information, believe that ignorance of such misunderstandings may be conquered in the near future, to reaffirm healthy and happy relationships worldwide.

Thank you for a professional, intelligent, diligent and insightful Hub, which you have obviously spent much time compiling and writing.

With Kind Regards,


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    VirginiaLynne profile image

    VirginiaLynne1,250 Followers
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    VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes at helping people write essays faster and easier.

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