YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE I CAN TELL                                           Inside the Language of Women's Friendships

#5 on the washington post nonfiction bestseller list

Through research into the unique ways women talk to one another, this warm and wise exploration of female friendship will help women lean into the comfort these powerful relationships offer and avoid the hurt feelings that come from common miscommunications.

Best friend, old friend, good friend, bff, college roommate, neighbor, workplace confidante: Women’s friendships are a lifeline in times of trouble and a support system for daily life. A friend can be like a sister, daughter, mother, mentor, therapist, or confessor—or she can be all of these at once. She’s seen you at your worst and celebrates you at your best. Figuring out what it means to be friends is, in the end, no less than figuring out how we connect to other people.
In this illuminating and validating new book, New York Times bestselling author Deborah Tannen deconstructs the ways women friends talk and how those ways can bring friends closer or pull them apart. From casual chatting to intimate confiding, from talking about problems to telling what you had for dinner, Tannen uncovers the patterns of communication and miscommunication that affect friendships at different points in our lives. She shows how even the best of friends—with the best intentions—can say the wrong thing, and how words can repair the damage done by words. Through Tannen’s signature insight, humor, and ability to present pitch-perfect real-life dialogue, readers will see themselves and their friendships on every page. The book explains

• the power of women friends who show empathy, give advice—or just listen
• how women use talk to connect to friends—and to subtly compete
• how “Fear of Being Left Out” and “Fear of Getting Kicked Out” can haunt women’s friendships
• how social media is reshaping communication and relationships

Drawing on interviews with eighty women of diverse backgrounds, ranging in age from nine to ninety-seven, You’re the Only One I Can Tell gets to the heart of women’s friendships—how they work or fail, how they help or hurt, and how we can make them better.

Watch a video of Deborah Tannen talking about the book here.

Listen to an audio recording of Deborah Tannen talking about the book here

in the media

Listen to Deborah Tannen's interview on NPR's WPR The Joy Cardin Show

Listen to Deborah Tannen's interview on's Lexicon Valley podcast.

Listen to Deborah Tannen's live interview on NPR's 1A.

Listen to Deborah Tannen's interview on WESU's For Women Over 40.

Read Deborah's Tannen's article on

Read Deborah's Tannen's article in The New York Times.

Read Deborah Tannen's article in The Atlantic.

Read Deborah Tannen's article in New York Magazine


“Men will enjoy and profit from this book as much as women will. . . . The moral of these stories [is that] the need for friendship is forever, no matter what forms it takes. Friends come and go, but those who allow us to be unself-consciously ourselves? Hamlet understood. We grapple them to our souls with hoops of steel.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A book about friendship that is also interested in the miscommunication that can so complicate it . . . The language, in this book about language, is saturated with concepts that apply equally well to romance in its more traditional forms. The language, too, celebrates friendship in its frustrations and its rewards and, above all, its wonderful complexity. It is promoting friendship from a supporting character into a starring role. . . . The loves that the linguist explores in her romantically named book are not merely ones that comfort and sustain women until, one day, the real thing comes along. They are the real thing.”     —The Atlantic

"At a time when the messages we give and get have so many more ways to be misconstrued and potentially damaging, a book that takes apart our language becomes almost vital to our survival as friends."—The Washington Post

“With knowledge and wisdom, the author helps readers navigate the subtle workings of language in interactions among women.” —Library Journal

“Tannen addresses women’s tendency to seek and make bonds, the way secrets and talk of personal troubles can act as currency in this process, the subtle balance between connection and competition between female friends, and much more. . . . [Her] extensive research and writing, full of thought-provoking questions along with facts, are sure to hook readers enticed by her rich topic.”—Booklist

buy the Book

Barnes & Noble / Amazon / iBooks / Penguin Random House 

Indiebound / Find an Independent Bookseller Near You

upcoming public appearances     

maryland/washington, DC

june 15 at 7:30 pm                                             Friendship heights village center               4433 south park avenue                         chevy chase, md                                             village center website