Tannen, Deborah. The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue.


In her essay, “the argument culture,” Deborah Tannen argues that debates can only be constructive if they are balanced. In her view, the noble American tradition of debating has been distorted by the argument culture. Deborah Tannen also argues that biased debates are very common today because people have stopped being objective and balanced. She recommends that in order to set up a debate, it is important to ensure that the spokesperson can offer polarized view. Additionally, Deborah Tannen argues that the argument culture is the predominant culture in America because all argument is battles- either sex or gender battles or respect. She also says that people have stopped having debates, as they believe that only arguments can solve interpersonal issues (Tannen 23). Therefore, this essay seeks to explain that agonism is against the common good.

The Main Argument

Deborah Tannen also argues that in as much as fighting for ones right and other prudent matters are important. However, the reactive way of approaches to issues in the adversarial way is very archaic, and outdated. She also argues that the power of the word can shape perception. In her opinion, the argument culture can be ended by looking at all sides. Because in an argument, there is no listening, only automatic, ritualized and unthinking use of opposition. When people argue, reason fails and the main objective of the debate is not achieved as people wrestle out their personal difference instead of solving problems. Therefore, in a bid to end the argument culture, Deborah Tannen recommends that discussions should be structured in the form of debates where no two people are allowed to express their opposing views and defend their stand, but a discussion where more than two people express their views without antagonizing one another (Tannen 56).

While the argument culture only allows for criticizing and critical thinking, it is demeaning and this starts from the school levels where children are only cultured to criticize the literary works of other great writers instead of challenging the children into critical thinking. Debora also argues that unlike critical thinking, or debates, argument cultures is predominantly composed of war metaphors and these adversarial war like thinking only shape our perception and pervades our thinking. However, while she admonishes the adversarial thinking, she supports the same at the personal level because to her, this is the strength of the American society because people are freer to express their conflicts openly.

In reference to Hi-Tech communication, Tannen explains how technology has brought us together, and pulled us apart. She agrees that in as much as people are more connected now than it was years ago thanks to technology, people are more apart then before. She notes that even with the advanced technologies such as emails, and portable technologies like mobile phones, people are people are more isolated. She also argues that the anonymity provided by telecommunication networks has increased chances of stranger-to-stranger “flaming.” Additionally, Tannen recommends that instead of people being accustomed to using war and sports metaphor in their discussion, debates, and arguments, there is greater need to find other metaphors that can replace the current argument culture so that everyone can adopt the dialogue culture.


While I agree with ms Debora Tannen about the argument culture, it is important to note that the culture developed from stage to stage over the years and unlearning it may take time. I think the argument should be on how to unlearn the argument culture, and not how to react to the argument culture. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly difficult to debate effectively in a world where arguments are based on sectarian views. However, in as much as I agree that the American war of words has matured completely; I find the article very interesting because she adopts an objective stance at analyzing the effect of war of words on people. From experience, I have realized that non-constructive arguments are a waste of time, lead to distortion of facts, and encourages people to lie. I also agree with Debora when she stated that in the current argument culture, every debate takes an adversarial approach (Tannen, The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words 36)

Finally, as conclude, I would like to say that pubic discourses are intended to reach socially benefiting conclusion, make decision that can help an individual and or the society as a whole, therefore, agonist dos not contribute to realizing the objectors of the discourses. People should be reminded to be sober and objective whenever there is a discourse because agonism only makes people defensive and not clerk headed to think effectively and communicate effectively. I want to support the argument presented by Debora Tannin that the American argument culture is like a road rage where not only the people involved become the victims of such arguments but also the innocent third parties who were even unaware of the or going arguments. To protect everyone in a society, the argument culture must be unlearned and antagonism be eliminated (Tannen, The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue 55)

Audience Analysis

The audience for this summary is fellow classmates who are between 16- 30 years in college. While the audience is composed of both male and female students, their ethnical background is diverse meaning that cultural diversity is an important factor that I have considered. The audience is mainly composed of the youth who are always exposed to antagonistic situations during discussions, debates or in their communication with their peers and teachers. I have chosen my classmates as the intended audience because all discussions in our class always end in arguments. Additionally, our non-constructive discourse always leads to disagreement and vexation of the spirit. It is therefore important to teach the audience the difference between argument and debates and the effectiveness of each approach to discourse. In as much as the audience may react with an all knowing and contemptuous attitude, they will become the best debaters. Being their fellow student, I expect people to identify with fact considering the fact that at school, we have always had our personal difference compromise important discourses.

Works Cited

Tannen, Deborah. The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue. New York: Ballantine, 1998. Print.

Tannen, Deborah. The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. New York: Ballantine, 1999. Print.


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