My best girlfriend and I will talk and talk for hours with many interruptions of each other, yet we have both agreed that the interruptions never bother us. Just as Tannen explains in her idea of cooperative overlap, we see the interruptions as positive and supportive cues signaling the fact that we are listening to each other. I would even go so far as to say that I need interruption in order to know that my friend is listening and involved in my story. Talking to one of my guy best friends is a totally different story. The other day, he was telling me a serious story about his life at home. I was very into what he was saying and interjected a short comment about how I feel for his situation and what he is going through. Yet immediately I could tell that he did not like me speaking when he was telling the story. Even though my comment was supportive, it did not matter to him, because he wanted control of the conversation and viewed my comment as an attack on his power.
The best example of a real difference between the need for connection and status is how my wife and I get into conflicts. I usually initiate arguments by bringing up things we need to work on, whereas my wife needs to know that everything is good right now. You see, I want to have the best relationship of anyone we know. My wife does want the same, but she thinks it should be that way to start off with, a difficult thing for a male communication student.
Last year I dated a guy long distance who was also very into acting and theater. I was having a lot of difficulty at the time with my confidence as an actress due to my failures, especially compared to his large successes. So I shared my feelings with him, hoping he would relate and have some wisdom for me. By the end of the conversation, he had become really angry because he couldn't solve my problem, especially from 75 miles away. This of course made me feel even worse. I tried to explain that I wasn't asking for him to solve anything. I just wanted to talk with him because I felt he as the only one who would understand. A little more than a month later we broke up. One of the main reasons was that he thought he was being a bad boyfriend because he couldn't ever help me with my problems.
I have a good friend named Autumn who I stay in touch with regularly through conversations on the phone. Tannen's concept of genderlects helps to explain this stark contrast in the subjects we bring up for discussion. I usually bring up matters of WHAT I am currently doing--my activities, accomplishments, and tasks before me--and seek to know the same of Autumn. Autumn usually brings up HOW people we both know are doing or she shares self-depreciating stories about her own life. My talk is very much report talk, while Autumn's is rapport, and neither of us have much interest in the other's type of talk, but go along with it until we can change the subject back to our own focus. I see several implications for the future in this theory. Understanding now that girls use rapport talk and share about others out of a desire for community, I can properly respond to what that type of communication from girls is trying to do instead of discounting it or trying to change the subject back to role/status oriented topics. Also, I don't believe that the masculine and feminine lines are drawn as distinctly between men and women as Tannen portrays, since I find myself being very feminine in my listening, conflict, and private speaking style. I am very masculine in my asking questions, telling stories, and public speaking style. However, knowing that there is more than one way to approach these activities shows me that I can either choose between different styles for better results or I can understand the needs and intentions of others (especially becoming the "giant ear" that girls apparently love).