Deborah Tannen’s newest book explores the sister dynamic in family relationships. As one of three sisters, it was a relationship she knew a lot about. She also interviewed over 100 sisters of all ages and stages in life to discover more about the double edged sword that is sisterhood. In this “combination of closeness and competition,” she says “the one constant was comparison.”
When siblings talk, every conversation is weighted by what has gone before. This fosters special closeness but also means that a comment that seems innocuous to an outsider can cause pain that would appear to be unreasonably exaggerated.
As a linguist, Tannen’s expertise is in how language shapes relationships. Sisters are different from brothers in that they are often the glue keeping a family together – organizing get-togethers to celebrate birthdays, holidays and family reunions. They also foster closer relationships with the male members of the family. Because their conversational style is more personal and emotional, they allow men to be more open.
Tannen reads the audiobook version of You Were Always Mom’s Favorite which seems appropriate when she closes with very personal anecdotes from her own family. She says, “Having a sister adds an extra image in the mirror. Understanding who you are means discovering who you are in relation to her.”