Deborah Tannen

Research Report by Anne Larbes

Morrow, W. That's Not What I Meant!. New York: New York, 1986: 77-96


In doing research on Genderlect one of the items that I read was chapter 6 of William Morrow's book entitled "Power and Solidarity" This page contains a summery of the chapter, an interpretation of the chapters meaning, and my personal evaluation of the effectiveness and usefulness of the information within the chapter. I hope that you find this page to be beneficial to your studies.


The chapter begins with an explanation of power and solidarity, two concepts of genderlect, and how they apply to our juggling act of involvement and independence in the real world. Power having to do with controlling others, superiority, and social status, and solidarity dealing with our desire to be friendly and create a rapport. Throughout the chapter the concepts of power and solidarity are discussed in sections labeled; 1. "Thanks, Honey", 2. Denying Power, 3. Winning Friends to Influence People: Selling, and 4. Power and Solidarity at Home. The chapter concludes by explaining the (5.) Juggling Act that exists between power and solidarity.

1. "Thanks, Honey"

This section focusses on the differences between men and women when communicating power and solidarity. The main concern being the misunderstandings that occur amoung men and women in the communication process. The most common misunderstanding being when men, attempting to develop solidarity, use terms such as "honey", "hun", and "sweetie" because the masculine terms of "buddy", "pal", or "mac", would be inappropriate. But, women interpret this as a power communication that is derogatory, showing off male superiority. The chapter suggests that often times men do not intend for the communication to be one of power and that the focus should be on the main message rather than the metacommunication.

2. Denying Power

This section discusses another aspect of power versus solidarity when solidarity undercuts power. This is when people deny their authority or power in order to create a greater sense of solidarity. One of the examples used is a school teacher that asks his students to use his first name instead of Mr. and his last name. He did this in hopes of creating a friendlier relationship, solidarity, with his students. The problem then arises when there is a time for him to be in a power position with disipline or grades. Because of the increased solidarity, he has lost some of the respect for his superiority in such power positions. The chapter points out that this denial of power will backfire in many circumstances and that it is important to find a balance between power and solidarity for the purposes of effective communication.

3. Winning Friends to Influence People: Selling

This power and solidarity technique is used primarily by salespeople in hopes of increasing their sales. The section explains that a salesperson will often ignore your status or power and use excessive solidarity to create a false sense of friendship. It is then belived that you will trust them as a friend and purchase what they are selling. This solidarity-based method of giving information is used to catch consumers off guard and to make a sale. However, you feel as though the solidarity in inappropriate and the technique, again, will backfire.

4. Power and Solidarity at Home

The struggle between power and solidarity even occurrs in the home. This section uses a brief dialogue to explain the miscommunication exists. In short, sometimes people, wanting to show solidarity will put themselves in a care-giving role. They think that by taking care of the other person they are showing concern, friendship, and solidarity. But, the person receiving this care often feels as though the care-giver has put themselves in a dominant, power position and that he/she is not capeable os caring for themselves. The chapter explains that because the underlying feelings are not usually discussed, the miscommunication continues.

5. Conclusion/ A Juggling Act The chapter concludes with a discussion of the constant juggling act that exists between power and solidarity. In that, we struggle to maintain our independence (power) without jeopardizing our friendships (solidarity). Finding the balance between these two elments is often times a balancing act of emotions, trying to communicate effectively what we want, power v/s solidarity, without alienating others.


The overriding message that this chapter is trying to convey is that power and solidarity struggles exist in every relationship. And, that as communicators, we are constantly sending messages of either power or solidarity that are often times misunderstood and can have negative effects on the communication act. The chapter relates to the theory of Genderlect in that it is an extension of this theory focussing on power and solidarity and how they can cause confusion in mixed gender communications. The chapter suggests that we try to be more aware of these messages and how we can use them to better understand relationships involving power or solidarity.


This chapter is very effective at explaining the struggle that occurrs between power and solidarity messages. The application of these struggles to events in the real world help to strengthen the understanding of genderlect and how it exists in our everyday lives with women,teachers, salespeople, and even at home. The organization of the chapter was clear and easy to follow allowing for an easier read than most research items. This chapter pin-points situations that we can all relate to in our own lives and explains them using the juggling act between power and solidarity to show why they are inportant concepts in communcation.

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This page has been created by: Anne Larbes, Last up-dated 03-05-99