Deborah Tannen is convinced that the key to understanding relationships is through conversation. In her first book, THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT, Tannen asserted that conversational styles develop in response to a host of influences and that the degree to which those differences between styles are not perceived frustration and missed communication are the consequence. Her second work, YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND, narrowed the focus to the manner whereby conversational styles are influenced by gender. TALKING FROM 9 TO 5 incorporates the results of Tannen’s earlier investigation and applies those insights to private speaking in a public context—what is said at work.
Tannen insists that women in positions of authority, and those who wish to achieve that status, face a special challenge in that their conversational style works to deny them the advancement or respect they desire. Indeed, the dilemmas created by conversational dichotomies in combination with gender expectations combine to prevent optimum efficiency time and again. Unfortunately, the workplace as it is currently perceived places most women, and a few men, at an unnecessary disadvantage.
Tannen illustrates the problem with recourse to anecdote and scholarly investigations, but she offers little in the way of a single solution. This lack of an easy answer is likely the result of her belief that not only is there no common ground, but that being different is neither better nor worse, only different. Thus, people must concern themselves less with style and more with substance and simply agree to remain alike and apart to the degree each is comfortable. This work may be read apart from its predecessors, but all three are of value.