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You’re the Only One I Can Tell Reader’s Guide

By Deborah Tannen

You're the Only One I Can Tell by Deborah Tannen


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Were there parts of the book, or points made in the book, that particularly struck a chord with you? Which were they, and why?

2. Were there parts of the book, or points made in the book, that shed new light on an experience with a friend you had in the past? Which were they, and how?

3. Have you ever experienced FOBLO (Fear Of Being Left Out) or FOGKO (Fear of Getting Kicked Out)?  Does having a word for it change how you think or feel about it?

4. Did the concept and examples of conversational style shed light on any conversations you’ve had, with friends—or with anyone else?

5. Do you engage in troubles talk with friends?  Is troubles talk different with different friends? What do you value most about troubles talk?  Can you think of a time that you were sorry you engaged in troubles talk?

6. Has your sense of friendship changed over time?  Have friends filled different roles or different needs at different stages of your life?

7. Did you recognize the concept of poaching?  Does having a name for it affect how you think about it?

8. Have you ever experienced a cutoff?  Did the friends tell you why they were cutting you off? Have you ever cut friends off?  Did you tell them why you were cutting them off?  If not, why not? If you did, how did that play out?

9. Have you ever been a member of a trio?  Did you recognize any of the challenges about this constellation, such as FOBLO, shifting alignments, or any other?

10. Do you have both women and men friends?  Are there differences between these friendships?

11. How much time that you spend with friends is devoted to doing things and how much to talking? Does this differ with different friends? 

12. Which social media do you use to communicate with friends? How does this affect your friendships? 

13. When you say someone is or isn’t a close friend, what do you mean by “close”? Do you have different ways of being close to different friends?

14. Do you have close friends who you feel are very much like you?  Some you feel are very different from you?  How does their similarity or difference affect your friendship?

15. Do you feel that competition is a factor in any of your friendships?  Are there ways this has been helpful or hurtful?  Were your thoughts about this affected by Tannen’s take on how connection and competition can be confused, or inseparable?

16. How many friends do you have or want to have? Has this changed at different times in your life?

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