Deborah Tannen is a Professor of Linguistics, more specifically Socio-linguistics. She is one of my favorite non fiction authors. I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar she presented and actually got to speak with her.
She writes about how people talk with each other. It is all about the message. I was talking to a friend whose daughter just graduated college and got her first job. She came in and said to her daughter who was sitting on the couch watching something and said “Isn’t it great that you can sit on the couch and relax?” Her daughter got angry and thought she was being criticized. All she meant was isn’t it great that you have finished school, don’t have to study and have a new job that you are getting ready to start. The pressure is off you can enjoy your downtime.
I have had several conversations like this with my own daughter and I couldn’t understand why she was mad at what I said. Tannen takes about Meta message which as an IT person I get. The prefix meta originates from the Greek language meaning underlying definition or description. Meta data summarizes basic information about data which can make finding and working with particular instances easier.
If you make the analogy between the brain and the computer the meta message is like meta data. The brain goes back to a memory where the daughter was actually sitting on the couch and the same question or type of question was asked and the meaning of the question was completely different in context and tone.
Once I read this book I had what Oprah calls an AH Ha moment and things got so much better because I got it. I try to clarify and phrase things differently and it seems to work maybe just a little bit better.
This book deals with communication between a Mother and a Daughter. My relationship with my daughter is one of the most important things in the world to me. That is why I felt so compelled to read it. The book is filled with great examples and does a great job explaining why you are getting the unexpected response back from your daughter. My Mom use to tell me it is not what you say it is how you say it. So true.