Sex, Lies, and Conversation

Table of Content

Sex, Lies, and Persuasion

According to Dr. Louann Brizandine, in a 24 hour period, the average man will speak anywhere from 7000-10,000 words, whereas a woman can speak anywhere from 20,000-24,000 words. Thousands upon thousands of words are thrown out of the human brains, but how many of those are truly understood? More importantly, how many of those are not? In Deborah Tannen’s essay, “Sex, Lies, and Conversation,” pathos and logos are dropped in bombshells in order for the reader to feel accessible to such information. She poses the question, “Why is it so hard to talk to my spouse?” Through various statistics and examples, she makes the reader feel like it is his or her world she is talking about, or individualizing the audience members. The pathos in this essay mostly stirs the inner desire for a happy marriage; she simply makes the male or female reader feel like they too have misinterpreted the opposite sex. Suddenly, the reader might feel guilty, but then relieved when Tannen displays the solution. However, the statistics, quotes, and facts in the essay also succumb the reader to a sense of reality. The logos includes credible sources and her facts and examples about marriage, divorce, and listening techniques for both sexes. Tannen deems quite successful in making the audience feel how she wants them to feel–relieved. Tannen successfully uses various pathos and logos techniques to stir up the reader’s emotions in the essay, “Sex, Lies, and Conversation.”

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Divorce is a truly harsh thing. The once beautiful joining of two people in marriage over time decays into nothing but a bitter carcass of what they used to call happiness. Nobody will necessarily agree that America’s 50% divorce rate is a good statistic. Tannen takes advantage of this by letting the reader know how to communicate with the opposite sex so he or she will now be capable of not misinterpreting others. The whole concept of a happy marriage is what everyone looks for in life, and divorce is what everyone relatively avoids, so the whole essay in itself has an underlying form of pathos. Because of humans’ desires for happiness, reading the essay will slowly but surely shake up a few of the most persuasive emotions: happiness, guilt, and relief. A married man might be having trouble with communication is his marriage, so upon research for a cure, he might stumble upon Tannen’s essay, causing him to feel all three emotions. A single man might be struggling to find a girlfriend and wants to know why. Perhaps if knew about “Sex, Lies, and Conversation,” these emotions will stir him enough to finally know what it takes.

The essay itself might represent the form of pathos, but there are some specific examples. At the beginning of the essay, Tannen brings a personal example where in a group of men and women, one man mentions his wife and how she never listens. Tannen says, “He gestured toward his wife and said, ‘She’s the talker in our family.’ The room burt into laughter; the man looked puzzled and hurt. ‘It’s true,’ he explained. ‘When I come home from work I have nothing to say. If she didn’t keep the conversation going, we’d spend the whole evening in silence’” (503). This example subliminally questions the audience into wondering if the same case might be applicable in their lives. She goes on to say, “This episode crystallizes the irony that although American men tend to talk more than women in public situations, they often talk less and home. And this pattern is wreaking havoc with marriage” (503). The pathos in those two sentences stands very tall, causing a bit of fear and guilt. The reader now feels these and wonders if “wreaking havoc” in relationships is what he or she might have been doing for so long and never coming to realize it. Tannen later asks the questions, “How can women and men have such different impressions of communication in marriage? Why the widespread imbalance of their interests and expectations?” (503) To a married couple, this is the most intriguing and pondered-upon question. This question alone, if answered, could mend 50% of American marriages. Thus, the reader is sucked in to whatever Deborah Tannen has to say.

She does not just make the reader feel emotions through pathos, but through man logical examples and statistics as well. From the start, she mentions
the 50% divorce rate shortly after the example of the man in the group. Andrew Hacker is a political scientist of whom none of us know. Yet Tannen uses his studies as a prime example and the audience is almost forced to believe it through the appeal to authority. The name “political scientist Andrew Hacker” sounds official and business-like, as if the man must know what he is talking about. In the sentence immediately thereafter, a not-so-famous “sociologist Catherine Kohler” gets thrown on the table. Humans tend to respect facts or opinions from a person who works in a field they know nothing about. Many would agree that the students in the English 1310 class at some university in the far off land of Colorado would have absolutely no idea who these people are or what they are really talking about, but they would comply anyway and accept the “fact” that although these people are unknown, they must know what they are talking about.

Tannen not only hits the audience with appeal to authority, she gives specific examples of real people and how they had similar problem to the reader. She states some “facts” about the differences between boys and girls growing up and how the friendships then affect the marriages of today. “For women, as for girls, intimacy is the fabric of relationships, and talk is the thread from which it is woven. . .Boys’ groups are larger, more inclusive, and more hierarchical, so boys must struggle to avoid being the subordinate person in the group” (504). This immediately individualizes and triggers a reaction in the reader, spontaneously causing reminiscence of childhood to find parallelism with her statement. Soon enough, all males and females would come to agree with her statement, creating the whole essay even more interesting and applicable. To cause the exact same effect, she watched the videotapes of the obviously famous psychologist Bruce Dorval and stated that when the friends would talk to each other, the males and females were almost completely different. The females would face each other and give support for each other’s problems, but the males would rarely look at each other and would be satisfied with dismissing the other’s problem. Once again, the audience wonders if that applies to them, and sure enough, the essay is just that much more interesting. Tannen’s logos in the essay stands tall and almost forces the reader to believe what she has said to be true.

Tannen uses both techniques of pathos and logos very well; she can keep an entire essay interesting and keep the audience going without them even knowing it. Throughout her various logical examples, she subliminally inserts pathos into them as well in order to make the reader feel obliged to listen to her and to take her advice on communication with the opposite sex. The intended audience, anyone capable of a legitimate relationship, is sucked in through relatable examples. When Tannen brings up the videotapes of how females and males communicate with those of the same sex, the reader will always think and reminisce and realize that her studies are true, keeping the reader even more interested. This is through the pathos of feeling relieved that someone understands and there is a solution and the logos of her real-life examples and statistics.

Deborah Tannen draws the audience in through her various techniques of pathos and logos. The reader will feel all kinds of emotions throughout the text, including an appeal to the authority of other “acclaimed” scientists. After reading the essay, relief comes upon the reader because now he or she will know exactly what to do to avoid a divorce. Humans always wonder why so much difficulty resides in talking to their spouses, and Tannen freely explains the cause, effect, and solution in one short essay through the effects of pathos and logos. She draws the audience in, beats them with a bag of helpful information, then lets them go feeling better than ever. The essay indivualizes the readers, stirs up their emotions through a desire for happiness, statistics, and examples, then lets the reader wonder if the situations are applicable. Tannen successfully uses pathos and logos to prove her point.

Cited Sources
“How many words does the average human speak during a 24 hour period?.” Fun Trivia. N.p., 23 Jul 2008. Web. 18 Oct 2013.

Tannen, Deborah. Sex, Lies, and Conversation:Why is it so hard for men and women to talk to
each other?. 1st ed. Print.

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Sex, Lies, and Conversation. (2016, Oct 11). Retrieved from

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