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Interpersonal Communication in the Break Up

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Professor O'Connell
Com 101
22 March 2017
Interpersonal Communication In The Break Up

        The movie The Break-up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer anniston, shows that poor communication can cause many issues in a relationship. Throughout the movie, both the main characters display both a lack of communicating and poor communication that causes them to argue and disagree on almost every topic and conversation in which they engage.  The main characters tend to avoid communicating every time a new issue arrises instead of discussing their problems with each other and trying to come to a solution.  Brooke feels that she is unappreciated by Gary while Gary feels that he is always being nagged by Brooke and that she doesn't appreciate what he does.  Although they both loved each other, their lack of effective communication leads to the end of their relationship.  Through various scenes, we learn that effective communication is key to a maintain a healthy and happy relationship.  

        In the scene, when Gary returns home and Brooke is preparing dinner for their families, the first conflict ensues between the two.  Brooke confronts Gary for only bringing home three lemons instead of the twelve that she requested.  During the argument, Gary demonstrates  poor nonverbal communication.  According to Kathleen Verderber, kinesics is the study of body language (135).  Body language can show a lot about a person involved in a conversation. While brooke is confronting Gary about the lemons and not being prepared for the guest's to arrive, Gary is not making eye contact because he is too busy watching the baseball game on television.  He makes Brooke's concern feel as if they are not important to him.  The lack of eye contact also shows her that he is trying to avoid the conversation and does not truly respect what she has to say.  He is laying down on the couch with poor posture which shows Brooke that he is not very interested in what she has to say.  This scene shows why non verbal communication is key to effectively communicating.
        In the scene when Brooke asks for help with the dishes, Gary does not attend to the conversation.  “Attending is the process of willfully striving to perceive selected sounds that are being heard” (Verderber, 202).  In other words, while engaged in conversation we must focus on the conversation at hand. Gary does not make eye contact again with Brooke and is too busy playing his video game to give her the attention or respect of listening.  Gary is not attending to the conversation which makes the conversation they are having poor communication. As stated by Kathleen Verderber, Three guidelines for effectively attending are being physically and mentally prepared, shifting from speaker to listener completely, and staying tuned in (204-205).  For example, in the scene when they are discussing the apartment situation with with the realtor about what will happen with the apartment, neither Brook or Gary follow the rule of shifting from speaker to listener completely.  They argue back and forth and  neither can listen to the other because they are too eager to be the speaker.  
        There is an ego conflict that occurs between Brook and Gary.  “An ego conflict is a disagreement that results when both parties insist on being the “winner” of the argument to confirm their self-concept and self-esteem” (Verderber, 360).  During an ego conflict, people may make judgmental statements about the other to try and defend themselves and while this is occurring, the main disagreement isn't discussed.  An ego conflict occurs in the movie when they begin to talk about each others family members.  Although it has nothing to do with the underlying issue, Gary makes remarks about Brooke's  grandfather while brook responds with calling Gary's brother a pervert.  In this scene, the two go back and forth making the conflict personal rather than discussing the original argument.


        The interpersonal needs theory is shown several times throughout the movie from Brooke.  “According to the interpersonal needs theory, all of us have inclusion, affection, and control needs that we try to meet through our relationships, although our need for each of these varies in degree from person to person and over time” (Verderber, 176).  Throughout the movie, Brooke feels that there is a lack of affection from Gary.  For example, when Brooke asks Gary for help with the dishes, he shows little to none care in wanting to help her out.  She feels as if though she is always doing things for him and he never reciprocates the same to her.
        As for the control aspect of the interpersonal needs theory, Gary shows his need for control. Brooke feels as if Gary controls all of their plans and that they can never do what she wants to do.  “Control need is our desire to influence the events and people around us and to be influenced by others” (Verderber, 177).  In other words, some people feel as if they always need to be in control of others.  Gary displays this multiple times throughout the film.  In the opening scene, Gary asks Brooke if she wanted a hotdog before they knew each other.  At first Brooke denies the offer until Gary begins to force her to say yes.  After this he asks her if she wants to go out for a drink and she also denies this until once again she is pressured into doing so.  This shows us that Gary's control need outweighs the other two aspects of the interpersonal needs theory..  
        Throughout the entire movie, poor listening plays a major role in the downfall of Brooke and Gary's relationship.  According to Kathleen Verderber, Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages (196).  Instead of listening to the needs and concerns of one another, they are too busy complaining to the other about their own wants and needs.  For example, when Brooke is complaining about the lemons, instead of listening to her concern, Gary begins to complain about being tired from work and wanting to relax.  This is poor communication because each of them are formulating what they will say next instead of taking the time to listen to one other.


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