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Rhetorical Analysis on Deborah Tannen’s Argument Culture

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    A Move towards Better Communication Deborah Tannen graduated from The University of California, Berkely, M. A. in 1979 with her PHD in Linguistics. She is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. Tannen has written many books where she applies her theory of Linguistics to everyday situations. Some of her books are: That’s Not What I Meant! : How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationship (1986), Talking from 9 to 5: How Women’s and Men’s Conversational Styles Affect Who Gets Heard (1994), The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue(1998), and I Only Say This Because I Love You (2001).

    In an essay from the book, The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialouge, Tannen discusses the controversy in the world when it comes to communication. Tannen focuses this essay on the way that society has used adversarial debates to create problems with communication. Tannen writes about how we think of arguments at “war or a fight” (Tannen, 404). Tannen believes that “we would be much more successful if we didn’t always think of argument as a war or a fight but as a dialogue among a variety of different positions. (403). She also explains how high tech communication has affected the way society communicates and is pulling us apart. This rhetorical analysis will discuss Deborah Tannen’s ideas and how she was trying to make the society view all sides of this problem, and why we as a society need to work on changing our ways to make the future better. Tannen begins this essay with questioning “noble American traditions” (403). This is where attention is grabbed and makes you want to read more about what traditions are in question.

    This is a formal essay that brings up many situations in everyday life that really makes you stop and think about this problem. In the beginning of one paragraph she states “More and more, our public interactions have become more like arguing with a spouse” (404). This brings up the thought of disagreements you have with your spouse, you try to find ways to solve the problem without hurting one another. As a society we need to be able to express our conflicts openly, but we need to find ways to settle our differences without hurting one another. As a society we all need to make the difference, it can not only be one person.

    Tannen uses a formal tone to get her points across in this essay, the main points that she wants to get across are in quotes and in the essay in a few different places. She makes you stop and think of how you react when you are in a difficult situation, do you argue back, or do you stop and try to look at “all sides”? She is trying to convey that point that society looks at “both sides” of an argument and not “all sides”. She continually tries to get the point across to not only have two people when debating and to ask questions like what are all side of the issue not only what are the two sides.

    Tannen then talks about how war metaphors are shaping the way we think. She brings up that the headlines on two popular magazines were recently: “The Secret Sex Wars” proclaims Newsweek and “Starr at War,” declares Time” (404). Winning or losing in not the way our lives should be framed. Tannen brings up that “most Americans’ views lie somewhere in the middle” (405). Tannen is attempting to teach the readers that there are more than two sides to an argument and that we need to stop and think about this. In the essay Tannen goes from explaining war metaphors to talking about solicitors calling your house when you sit down to eat dinner.

    She states “along with the voices of family members and friends, phone lines bring into our homes the annoying voices of solicitors who want to sell something-generally at dinnertime” (406). The examples that she uses gets the reader’s attention because we can all relate, no American can say they have never had this happen to them. She uses a good tone in this essay that does not push her ideas and beliefs on the reader, but makes the reader think about what she is saying and reevaluate their beliefs. Not to make them change, but to think about the way you handle a conflict.

    There is one point in the essay that Tannen goes off in a different direction and loses your attention. She goes from talking about high-tech communication pulling us apart to road rage. She stated “Road rage” shows how dangerous the argument culture-and especially today’s technologically enhanced aggression-can be. ” (406) I had a hard time seeing the relationship between the “Road rage” and technology. Though road rage is definitely dangerous, I did not feel that this was relevant at this point in the essay. Tannen’s intended audience for this essay is the society as a whole; she is addressing each and every one of us.

    At some time or another in our life we have come upon a situation where we have to decide whether we fight for our own beliefs and opinions or if we let someone else shape the way that we feel. Should we go to “war” with them? , no, but we should stand up for what we believe in. In this essay this is what Tannen is attempting to get across though she wants you to look at “all sides” of the problem and just not the main two. The wording of this essay was easy to follow; she for the most part keeps on track with her thoughts.

    She transitions from one example to another very well and breaks her different thoughts into separate parts. The sentences are well written they were not long, but were long enough to get the point across. The punctuation she used in this essay made it easy to know when she really wanted you to stop and think about what she was saying. At the end of the essay she talks about how we need to change the way we think by changing the way we ask something, “Instead of asking “What’s the other side? ” we might ask “What are the other sides? Instead of insisting on hearing “both sides, “let’s insist on hearing “all sides” (407). She talks about how to need to look for other words to explain things besides “sports and war”. If we do not revolve our daily lives around these terms and phrases, some of this would possible resolve on its own. Over all I thought this was a well written essay that really makes you stop and think about how this society really is and how it is ran. All of the examples that were brought up were very true to everyday life and a change does need to be made not only with in ourselves personally, but also as a whole.

    I found that this essay was very moving, it definetly makes you stop and think about how you will address an issue the next time you are faced with one. I think that Tannen was very effective in getting her feelings across to her readers and making them think about how they are addressing situations. References “Deborah Tannen. ” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Biography In Context. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. Tannen, D. (2008) The Argument Culture, In S. Reid (ED. ), The Prentice Guide for College Writers (9th ed. ) (pg. 403-407). Upper Saddleriver NJ: Pearson.

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