I ONLY SAY THIS BECAUSE I LOVE YOU                                           Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids                            When You're All Adults

Why does talk in families so often go in circles, leaving us tied up in knots?  Talking to family members can be deeply comforting or deeply painful and problematic even when we're all adults.  Signs of acceptance and belonging are incomparable gifts, but sometimes we find instead signs of disapproval and rejection. Why do the seeds of family love sometimes yield a harvest of criticism and judgment, even as families can be like a protective fortress?

This book shows how important it is, in family talk, to learn to separate word meanings, or messages, from heart meanings, or metamessages - unstated but powerful meanings that come from the history of our relationships and the way things are said. Presenting real conversations from real people's lives, this book uncovers what is actually going on in family talk, showing how family conversations must balance the longing for connection with the desire for control, as we struggle to be close without giving up our freedom.  By helping readers to understand and redefine family talk, Tannen provides tools to improve relationships with family members of every age.

in the media

Read Deborah Tannen's article in The Washington Post Outlook Section

Listen to Deborah Tannen's live interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show


“Tannen's great gift, and the one that makes this book so worthwhile, is the clarity she offers for emotionally charged familial situations. The precision with which she analyzes dialogue is innovative. With both reason and calm, I Only Say This leads the reader to finally perceive and eliminate the critical mother, the defensive teenager, and the control in rival sibling. She guides the reader to listen in a new and responsive way.”  
—Wendy Wasserstein, The Washington Post Book World
“Tannen has developed quite a cult following by examining what most of us do most of  the time without thinking, and that's talk. Tannen unravels the tangles of talk between spouses, lovers, coworkers, everyday people. [In this book she] listens in on and decodes the most volatile communication that among family members.”Chicago Tribune
“With lively prose and genuine concern for people, Tannen brings linguistic concepts - metamessage, re-framing, indirect request - to bear on dozens of situations to help readers strengthen family ties.” 
 Library Journal

“Impressive, eminently useful insights...One seemingly modest but potentially life-changing gift we can give [our families] is to try out Tannen's style of careful, good-humored attention to the ways talking connects us.” Salon

“An insightful and fascinating look at a subject that's on everybody's lips.” The Dallas Morning News

IOST Cover.jpg

Buy The Book:

Barnes & Noble / Penguin RandomHouse

Find an Independent Bookseller Near You

Also available:


Abridged Audiobook Read by the Author



Brazil/Siciliano, China/The Oriental Press, Finland/Otava, France/Laffont, Germany/Ullstein, Indonesia/Mizan Pustaka, Israel/Matar, Japan/Obunsha, Korea/Thinking Tree, Netherlands/Bert Bakker, Poland/Zysk, Russia/Eksmo,      Saudi Arabia/Jarir, Spain/Paidos, Sweden/Wahlstrom & Widstrom, Taiwan/Crown, United Kingdom/ Little Brown