Divorce Expert Deborah Tannen: An Overview

Communication is the classic double-edged sword. Not enough communication makes people’s desires, dislikes and fears mysterious and can lay a trap for the partner who doesn’t know where they shouldn’t step. Too much communication, on the other hand, causes its own problems. Gossip, over sharing and a feedback loop that fosters negativity lead to paranoia, anger and even despair. Judging how much communication makes sense before, during and after a divorce can be treacherous.

This week I sat down with renowned professor, author and expert Dr. Deborah Tannen. She is the University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships, best known for You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, which was on the New York Times best seller list for nearly four years. This month we’ll be taking a deep dive into Dr. Tannen’s work and what makes it so incisive and unique.

A Fresh Perspective

I think what makes Dr. Tannen’s work unique is the fresh perspective she offers on communication. She indentifies what, in common wisdom, is seen as useful and helpful—sharing—and discusses how it can become a real threat to your own wellbeing. The dangers are real. From hearing our own opinion echoed back to us, to an endless feedback loop of negativity, we create our own reality of unhappiness. And, as Dr. Tannen points out, this isn’t just a one-way communication. Mothers often take in the emotional impact of their daughter’s divorce, blame themselves, and leave their daughter feeling guilty about the whole thing. It’s a natural extension of the mother-daughter relationship. But it’s complicated.

An Over-sharing Crisis in our Culture

We’re facing an epidemic in our culture—over-sharing. It’s everywhere. We’ve all lived practically real-time coverage of a friend’s break-up, divorce or custody fight on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The line between being authentic and over-sharing can be tricky, but according to a recent Forbes article, “using social media like a personal diary and treating acquaintances as if they were a therapist, however, can have serious consequences.”

Over-sharing has another side effect: warped expectations. Once we are participating in over-sharing, we expect others to do the same. Dr. Tannen points out how sisters and friends often have expectations of knowing everything. They want the inside track, especially when you’re going through something emotional.

Given how widespread the crisis of sharing (and over-sharing) our innermost feelings has become, I’m looking forward to taking a deep dive into the subject of communication this month.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.