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March 2018



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I just stumbled upon this
"Can't We Talk?" (condensed from: You Just Don't Understand) by Deborah Tannen

It is about communication problems.

In therapy we have been talking about clear communication. But I agree with article, many of the indirect methods of expressing preferences or needs are not intended to be "manipulative" they are intended to diffuse conflict by approaching an issue indirectly.

Consider which of these statements are "manipulative"?
"Turn up the heat"
"Would you please turn up the heat"
"Would you please turn up the heat. I'm cold"
"I'm cold"
"Aren't you cold?"
"It's cold in here."

The problem with direct requests is that they can lead to direct conflict. (And nobody wants direct conflicts.) Indirect requests are openings for negotiations.

The problem with indirect requests is that they are so indirect that they can be entirely misunderstood.

But, in any case, clear and direct communication of needs is the only solution to misunderstandings.


though I'm inclined to pick the second to last one, it would really depend on tone of voice & intent
let me clarify- I would pick that one as the most manipulative... I would actually *choose* to use the second one
lj must be working slowly- I corrected my mistype because I would actually choose number three
I really like Tannen's work. I'm encouraged to see her cited in many examples of communication difficulty in articles.

Tannen's work

The only thing I disagree with is strictly defining communications styles by gender.

I remember someone saying that the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" books were so popular because they were right about 50% of the time, Half the people who read them could identify with what they were saying. The other half half couldn't, but that didn't really matter since sales were so good.

The principles work in general, there is no need to link them to gender.

Re: Tannen's work

But you can't escape the validity of gender identification for communication. I tend to have men think I'm bitchy, since I'm assertive and aggressive in my speech. The same thing I say coming from a man is perfectly OK with other men. Some men do not mind, most percieve me as bitchy.
Her book "You're Wearing That" perfectly typifies what I have encountered numerous time in arguments with my mother, but she and I have hashed things out, and we don't argue the same way...so we actually talk more...which is what she wanted from me.
The last three are all pretty manipulative in my book.
would that depend upon body language & tone of voice? just about anything could be manipulative given *those*
No. I think they are inherently manipulative if their goal is to yield action from someone else.

"I'm cold"
That's a statement of one's experience. It doesn't request anything or directly state a need.

"Aren't you cold?"
Not manipulative if I'm asking it of my friend who just walked in naked from a blizzard. But again, if the goal is action on the part of the other person, there has been no direct request. Depending on the tone of voice it could be even worse - something close to an accusation that the person should be cold or should know I was cold and should do something about it.

"It's cold in here."
Statement of personal experience or perception (or a noticing that the heater is not working and the temperature in the living room is 45*). It doesn't request something of someone else.
You're right that this isn't a simple issue. I have had to just do my best to adjust my level of directness based on the individual or social situation because I haven't found one approach that works well with everyone.