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The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  269 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews

In her #1 bestseller You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen showed why talking to someone of the opposite sex can be like talking to someone from another world. Now Tannen is back with another groundbreaking book, this time widening h
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 9th 1999 by Ballantine Books (first published 1998)
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I really like Deborah Tannen’s writing style. She writes in short chapters and uses a lot of examples from studies and real life to illustrate her points. This book continues some of her work on communication – moving from the differences between men and women’s styles of communication, she begins talking about an “American” style of communication and culture. Our culture is becoming overly antagonistic and argumentative – obsessed with framing every issue as a debate between two opposing forces ...more
Dave Powell
Brings up some interesting points with regard to the nature of debate. Rarely is any issue just 2 sided and this book emphasizes the importance of seeking common ground in our discourse.
argument for arguments sake is never productive and although it may be important to stick up for what you believe, the application of reason is more important than shouting down your opponent to win cheap points.
Aug 21, 2008 Kate rated it liked it
Since I'm writing this as the presidential election heats up, I only grieve that Tannen's book hasn't really made a dent in the obnoxiousness of political/cultural debate in this country. To avoid all the lies and innuendo of the next ten weeks I turn off my tv and my radio so I don't have to poison my mind with that crap. Tannen hits the nail on the head, and keeps hitting and hitting and hitting. Doesn't seem to do much good.
Jun 25, 2016 Gilahk rated it it was amazing
This book, written almost 20 years ago could have been written today only with so many more examples of how polarized the discourse in America has become.
In one of the chapters she writes about email becoming more and more prevalent as a means of communication, citing the benefits and yet the loss of one to one communication that too much reliance on email might foster. She got that right as well as alerting to the alarming trend of more coarse and brutish dialogue that ensues when posting on s
Rachel Blom
Nov 18, 2014 Rachel Blom rated it really liked it
I love Deborah Tannen. I devoured her previous books on communicating (my favorite being 'You just don't understand' on differences in communication style between men and women). This book is different from her previous work, but fascinating nonetheless. Tannen's key point is that America has changed into an argument culture, where many aspects of life have turned into debates instead of dialogues. She shows this by discussing amongst others politics, the law, and media/the press and proves that ...more
Dec 15, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Tannen is probably better known for her book "You Just Don't Understand" which looks at the communication differences between men and women.

This book explains why no one in this country listens to authority, and how everything has to be confrontation or a debate.

Also many problems are looked at as having only two sides, when many problems are multi-faceted and many differnet arguments could be made.

A must read for anyone who has to be in authority.
Sep 18, 2007 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: myself, and girls who are cool by my standards.
I want to read everything by Deborah Tannen.
Dec 25, 2016 Bronwyn rated it really liked it
Written about 20 years ago, this book is more relevant than ever. Tannen describes how we continuously reinforce a culture of critique and vitriol. She demonstrates how framing issues as having two sides limits both the breadth and nuance of discussion and encourages a competitive rather than investigative or collaborative conversation. And that always balancing with the "other" side can encourage the promotion of extreme views. She also describes how adversarial language and the scandalization ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2013 Misty rated it liked it
Loved the first book of Tannen's that I read, "You Just Don't Understand." This book is almost as insightful. It has a easy to read format and cadence. Her analysis of the growing and overwhelming influence of agonism and criticism in our culture is valuable. While I don't agree with all her perspectives and suggestions about how to stop such a trajectory in our public and private lives, I appreciate how the book creates a framework for dialogue to address this issue. Note: One chapter (Technolo ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book! Hard to believe it was written almost 20 years ago, because so much still resonates with what I see in my world today. Here's to hoping we can move from a culture of debate to dialogue!

Favorite point from the concluding chapter: "Whatever the causes of the argument culture--and the many cause I have mentioned are surely not the only ones--the most grievous cost is the price paid in human spirit: Contentious public discourse becomes a model for behavior and sets the to
Dec 16, 2014 Kristen rated it liked it
News stories present everything as two extreme sides. Lawyers fight to win, not to find the truth. Everything is too much shouting and debate. This was one of those books that makes me say, "I guess so. But there's not much I can do about it." Tannen's fire for her subject grew when she wrote an earlier book, went on talk shows to publicize it, and was constantly thrown into debates that kept her from getting her message out. Or they didn't want her on if she wouldn't go along with the pit-one-a ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting examination of some of the problems caused by framing everything as an argument. I'm not sure that this happens as often in our society as Tannen thinks it does (maybe it's because I'm in Canada?), but I can definitely see the problems she descibes in media and politics. The examples of other options were interesting, and I was happy to find that Tannen didn't try to set any of them up as a perfect solution.
Dec 29, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it
This book is a bit long-winded, but I'm coming from a background in conflict resolution, so most of the substance was not new to me. However, it's very good substance. In a pinch, if you had limited time, read the first and last chapters. Everything in between consists mostly of examples of argument culture in law, politics, academia and the press.
Jun 11, 2008 Mom/sue rated it liked it
This book presented the author's concern that our culture, especially our journalism, is saturated with the concept that it is only disagreement that makes a subject interesting. Too little content in our news and in our lives.
Feb 10, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok
Ms. Tannen's writing style is engaging, her anecdotes were interesting and her conclusions seemed plausible... at first, anyway. Unfortunately, her reasoning (particularly her over-generalizations) drove me bonkers.
Jan 01, 2016 Katrina rated it really liked it
Reading this book, especially when a presidential election is gearing up, is pretty eye opening. The way we speak to each other, the way politicians speak, the way news is reported, all in an argumentative style that is not only unnecessary, but unproductive.
Tess Votto Haranda
I've been reading Deborah Tannen for years, and this book has been on my shelf for a while. It seemed very appropriate to pull it out right now during the 2016 presidential campaigns when everything on TV seems to be explosive. Tannen give you all the reasons why. She's phenomenal!
Jeanine Marie Swenson
Jan 02, 2009 Jeanine Marie Swenson rated it really liked it
I would grade this book as a 4.5 if I could. Deborah Tannen is really onto something here as she laments the decline of every pyramidal hierarchy into an adversarial battleground. Could this be one of the unforeseen downsides of capitalism? "Show me the money" takes on new meaning.
Apr 20, 2009 Martine rated it really liked it
After reading this book, hopefully, one will think of the importance of being a good listener and reflecting on one's words before speaking.
Feb 12, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
I loved loved loved this book. It's helped shape my view of the world and how language is framed, especially in the US and also elsewhere. Highly recommended.
May 29, 2013 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: get-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2014 Jen rated it liked it
Read portions as part of research. Interesting. Compelling.
Michael rated it it was ok
Aug 17, 2014
Nich Evans
Nich Evans rated it it was ok
Sep 14, 2016
Neal Pollard
Neal Pollard rated it liked it
Apr 22, 2015
Ruth Schrott
Ruth Schrott rated it really liked it
Jun 11, 2015
Katy rated it it was ok
Nov 01, 2012
Ms. Dumonet
Ms. Dumonet rated it really liked it
Sep 17, 2007
Billie rated it really liked it
Sep 23, 2015
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Deborah Tannen is best known as the author of You Just Don't Understand, which was on The New York Times Best Seller list for nearly four years years, including eight months as No. 1, and has been translated into 29 languages. It was also on best seller lists in Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, and Hong Kong. This is the book that brought gender differences in communication style to the ...more
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