How Women’s Ways of Talking Differ from Men’s

An interview with Deborah Tannen

Editor’s note: Deborah Tannen was interviewed by HBR editors Amy Bernstein, Sarah Green Carmichael, and Nicole Torres.

Let’s go back for a few minutes to the 1990s. More women were in the office, increasingly working alongside men or above them, not for them. Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown University linguistics professor, was concerned about these women being heard, given credit, and accurately evaluated by their male colleagues and bosses. She knew from her research that the way women tend to talk at work can put them at a disadvantage—a topic that she described in her 1995 Harvard Business Review article, “The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why.”

In this ...

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