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The Argument Culture:
Do Americans argue too much? Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand and That's Not What I Meant!, is an expert on miscommunication. In The Argument Culture she posits that misunderstanding is endemic in our culture because we tend to believe that the best way to a common goal is by thrashing out all our differences as loudly as possible along the way. Thus we are treated to a whole array of confrontational public forums, from congressional partisan politics to media circuses à la Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones, all based on a metaphor of war. What gets lost in all the shouting, Tannen says, is thoughtful debate and real understanding. Perhaps it's time to consider other methods of communication, she suggests. In addition to outlining what she considers the worst excesses of our argument culture, Tannen revisits some of the territory covered in You Just Don't Understand as she discusses the different ways in which young boys and girls express disagreement or aggression. Finally, she offers a survey of other, mostly non-Western ways of dealing with conflict, including the use of intermediaries and rituals. After reading The Argument Culture you might never again look at the evening news in the same way. [via]