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Essential Aspects of Communication Displayed Through Film Essay

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Abstract

In interpersonal communication, there are several variables that create a dialogue between two or more people. From the film Hitch, directed by Andy Tennant, the four main variables of interpersonal communication used are perception, nonverbal communication, certain aspects of relational development, and culture. All of these variables play a role in the film to create the relationships and communication that occur in the film. Some of the communication portrayed in the film Hitch is nonverbal between the various characters. Two main relationships develop throughout the film; these relationships are between characters, Hitch and Sara, Albert and Allegra. Culture shapes the way people are and how they choose their relationship partners, which is an essential point displayed in Hitch. The study of how perception plays a role in life is shown in this film by how people view others by their appearance, and nonverbal cues. Relational development is also shown throughout the film to display how relationships in the film begin to develop into lifelong bonds.

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Essential Aspects of Communication Displayed Through Film
Introduction

Life is a melting pot. It is filled with pieces from here and there, but in the end comes together as a whole collaboration. Our way of making life is through communication. Communication is a collaboration of verbal dialogue, as well as nonverbal cues. These items are essential to our communication, but the way in which they are interpreted depends on how one perceives it, which is dependent upon their culture. The 2005 film Hitch, displays prime examples of communication through relationships nudged by Alex Hitchens. Alex is “Hitch,” a professional matchmaker as one might say, whose job is to make unlikely interactions happen between two unlikely people. Through this tactic, he is able to bring together people who are right for one another, but who would never had met would it not have been for his intervention. Hitch, directed by Andy Tennant, uses nonverbal communication, perception, culture, and aspects of relational development to explore the way in which people dialogue, and the relationships that grow due to this communication.

Perception

The film Hitch, is filled with many aspects of interpersonal communication, one of them being perception. Perception is how we see others, interpret their dialogue, actions, etc. In this film, Albert is not noticed by his hopeful love interest, Allegra. Hitch believes that in order for Albert to be noticed by this beautiful woman, he must change the way he conducts himself, and the way Allegra perceives him. First, Hitch tries to help Albert gain a sense of self-esteem, in order for Allegra to notice him as a strong, outgoing, and successful man, rather than the shy and timid person he is. What Hitch wants his clients to experience a change in their “self-concept.” Alder (2012) describes self-concept as, “The relatively stable set of perceptions each individual holds on herself or himself ” (G-11). Also stated in the text, “Children who have a low opinion of themselves are more likely to see themselves as victims of bullying, both in their classrooms and in cyberspace. The way we think and feel about ourselves strongly influences how we interpret others’ behavior (p. 119)”.

Perhaps Albert had such a low sense of self-esteem that he truly believed women did not notice nor have an interest in him, when perhaps this belief could have been created due to his own sense of his self-concept. An early example of perception occurs when, early in the film, Sara is speaking with her friend Casey about the man she recently went on a date with. She says, “He was affectionate and sweet, and told me all of these affectionate things like how he can’t taste food and he wants three kids… I never seen anyone get dressed so fast!” This is an example of how gender roles play an extremely important role in perception. According to Adler (2012), “…masculine males tend to see their interpersonal relationships as opportunities to win something. Feminine females typically see their interpersonal relationships as opportunities to be nurturing, to express their feelings and emotions” (p. 120). In this instance, Vance, the man involved, was not looking to commit to a relationship like Casey.

She truly believed that since Vance was so kind and sweet, she would be able to open up to him as well, whereas he was only interested in a one-night stand. This moment is very pivotal,, as Casey and Sara believe because of this interaction, Hitch’s goal is to teach men how to “bed” women. Further on in the film, Sara uncovers the fact that her new love interest is in fact the infamous Hitch. When reacting to this discovery, Sara makes a snap judgment, which according to Webster Dictionary is “A judgment formed on the instant without deliberation.” She makes this kind of judgment in how she reacts to the fact that Hitch’s profession is supposedly teaching men how to “bed” women. Essentially, Sara ends the relationship, as well as contact between she and Hitch, without hearing Hitch’s side of the story.

Snap judgments occur almost instantaneously, whether it is a first impression, or judgment relating to a situation where someone has self-disclosed information about themselves or others. Allegra as well tends to make these quick judgments, especially when she learns that Albert had been consulting with Hitch. She immediately assumes everything she fell in love with in him was just a marketing ploy of sorts, sold by a matchmaker. Making snap judgments can often lead to stereotyping the other person involved within the communication. Stereotyping is a subset of snap judgments, and is defined by Adler (2012) as “…exaggerated beliefs associated with a categorization system” (p.125).

Sara takes part in stereotyping when she assumes all of Hitch’s clients, and Hitch himself are like Vance, the one-night-stand. Based on the information she has perceived, it would not be a stretch for her to make that particular judgment. If Sara had possessed the chance to meet Albert by this time, she would realize that not all of Hitch’s clients are as egotistical and narcissistic as Vance. At the same time, Albert is defying the stereotype of the normal “Hitch client” and wins Allegra over with his natural qualities, rather than the ones his matchmaker Hitch instructed him to have. Much of the communication Albert wins Allegra over with is nonverbal, especially due to the fact that he often stumbles over his words.

Nonverbal Communication

Hitch, begins with the statistic that, “60% of all human communication is nonverbal, body language, and 30% is your tone. This means that 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.” (Tennant, 2005). According to the Twelfth Edition of Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication, nonverbal communication is any message that is expressed through nonlinguistic methods (p. 177). Nonverbal communication shares just as much importance as verbal communication, if not more, in that through these messages people share their true feelings and responses to the world around them. Unlike verbal communication, nonverbal communication is often unconscious and continuous, meaning that it is likely uncontrollable. Before a response is spoken, before the response is even heard, one is already nonverbally communicating. Nonverbal messages arise in numerous forms, from the way one moves his/her body, to the way one dresses and even speaks.

Nonverbal messages support many functions. They can be used to repeat the verbal message that was just spoken. Similarly, they can be used to substitute for the verbal messages. For example, instead of saying yes one could nod. These cues and gestures are called emblems, which are nonverbal behaviors, which can be directly translated into words or phrases (A. Cordova, November 14, 2012). Nonverbal communication can either complement or contradict the verbal message. In complementing the message, the nonverbal communication not only adds to the message, but reinforces it. Messages may be contradictory when a person says one thing but really means another nonverbally.

Nonverbal behaviors can also accent, emphasize, or draw attention to or away from a verbal message. Lastly, nonverbal communication can be used to control and regulate the flow of conversation, as well as start and end interactions (A. Cordova, November 14, 2012). The opening scene of Hitch, summarizes many of the ways that nonverbal communication plays a major role in everyday lives. This movie combined with Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, addresses how nonverbal communication is important in communication, especially with women, in the formation and enhancing of relationships. For example, Hitch points out that women often say verbally things that they really don’t mean: “This is a really bad time for me,” “I just need some space,” “I’m really into my career right now,” etc. (Tennant, 2005). Even though women say things like this, they may mean something entirely different.

Hitch speaks of how sometimes women don’t know what they want until they see it. This is the part where nonverbal communication comes into play for men. In the very first scene, a woman’s dog rushes out of her hands and out of an elevator, only to be “saved” by the admiring man who hired Hitch, who in turn orchestrated the whole thing. The woman who lost her dog had presumably never met or spoken to the man who rescued her dog. Even though the woman had never verbally communicated with this man, she was extremely relieved, grateful, and impressed when she saw him defend her dog in the middle of the street. Without saying a single word, the man was able to improve his romantic chances with this woman greatly. The dog-rescue scene exemplifies the power of nonverbal communication. The majority of communication is nonverbal, thus Hitch emphasizes the importance of this aspect of communication.

The simple action this man performs of rescuing the dog, communicates a great amount about his personality; he is able to show that he is caring and nurturing. While he doesn’t need to explicitly tell her, “Hi. I am a kind and thoughtful person. Are you interested?” she is able to infer his personality from his nonverbal way of communicating. Note the man’s tone when he returns the dog: his nurturing tone reassures her that everything is alright, as well as the fact that he brave and kind. One key aspect of nonverbal communication is paralanguage. Paralanguage is how a statement is spoken, which includes tone, pitch, emphasis, pronunciation, and rate. This man’s use of paralanguage allows him to portray his personality without having to explicitly tell the woman about himself and his traits.

Further along in the movie, Hitch goes to meet up with a new client who is in need of desperate help from the “love doctor.” His name is Albert Brennaman and he was hopelessly and irrevocably in love with Allegra Cole. During this scene, Hitch observes Albert from afar to get a sense of what kind of guy he is. Albert is sitting on stairs eating and in a matter of seconds he manages to spill mustard on his slacks. He then goes on to pouring soda on a napkin and trying to remove the stain, only to end up accidentally kicking over his soda and ruining his whole lunch. Hitch is meanwhile still observing Albert. From Albert’s nonverbal communication portrayed in this scene, Hitch assumes that Albert is clumsy and doesn’t really have a clue. Although Albert was not trying to convey a message through his actions, he most certainly did. There are three types of nonverbal communication the Albert portrayed in this scene. Firstly, he was using kinesis. Kinesis is a type of nonverbal communication that involves the body. Body orientation, eye contact, and posture are all examples of kinesis.

Secondly, he nonverbally communicates through his physical characteristics: attire, groomed facial hair, glasses, etc. Lastly, he communicates through his personal environment (A. Cardova, November 14, 2012). Albert shows territoriality, because although that area on the stairs is public property he still in a sense claims the space as his own. Looking at how he kept that environment for that particular scene gives insight into how he may keep his home and or office space. His area on the stairs, after a parade of accidents ended up looking butchered and a hot mess (Tennant, 2005). From these cues Hitch can conclude that this man needs his professional help as a love coach, but also maybe as a life coach.

Nonverbal communication truly comes alive in the next scene of the movie, where Hitch is at a local bar admiring his future love interest, Sara Melas. In this scene, Hitch speaks to the bartender, who informs him about Sara’s normal bar habits. She drinks a dirty martini, which is odd because she usually gets a beer. Hitch determines that she must have had a tough week and a beer just wasn’t going to do the trick. As the scene plays out, he ends up pretending to be Sara’s significant other in order to get rid of another admiring contender.

He then continues to engage in conversation with her and begins listing out all the nonverbal signals she is giving. Hitch says, “…you’re sending all the right signals: no earrings, heels under two inches, your hair is pulled back, you’re wearing reading glasses with no book, and drinking a grey goose martini… and if that wasn’t clear enough there’s always the f–k off that you’ve got stamped on your forehead.” (Tennant, 2005). All of these are examples of communicating nonverbally through kinesis, body language, and physical characteristics. Nonverbal communication exists throughout the entirety of the film, but to catch and understand how it affects the development of the relationships, one must pay close attention.

Relationship Development

Two main relationships develop throughout the film Hitch. These relationships include characters, Albert and Allegra, and Hitch and Sara. Hitch and Sara’s relationship begins to develop from the first time they speak with one another in a bar. This interaction is part of the “coming together” part of Mark L. Knapp’s “Stages of Relationship Development” Model. This part of the model includes the initiating process, experimenting process, intensifying process, integrating process, and the bonding process. Hitch walking over to Sara in the bar and initiating a conversation is an example of the initiation process. This process is shown when one shows that they are interested in another and make them feel valued and worth one’s time. Once an individual initiates conversation in the model, the interaction progresses to the experimenting stage.

When people try to find something in common between both, creating small talk and getting to know each other, they are interacting within the experimenting stage. Hitch and Sara converse in this way at the bar, but it occurs again when Hitch reaches Sara at her work through a walkie-talkie to ask her on a date for the upcoming Saturday. This stunt he pulls shows Sara his personality and creativity. The intensifying stage in Sara and Hitch’s relationship occurs on their first date. Hitch believes he is already in love with her, and knows there is something special about their relationship. In the intensifying stage, people who are beginning to be a dating couple often move into the stage by spending more time together, going on more dates, and sometimes even saying “I love you” to each other. While Hitch and Sara are on their first date, they make plans to go on a second date, which is part of the intensifying stage.

They continue going on dates during this section of the film and keep spending more and more time together. They then consider themselves an official couple after this stage, and enter into the integrating stage of Knapp’s model. During this stage, the couple begins to define themselves as one to others, and begin to make future plans involving one another. The bonding stage goes coherently with the integrating stage because the couple uses gestures in public to display that they are in a relationship. These gestures include, holding hands, public display of affection, and walking side-by-side sharing each other’s company. Once Hitch and Sara’s relationship progresses, they display public affection everywhere they go. In the film, Hitch is seen kissing Sara goodbye before she left for work, which is an example of the bonding stage of Mark Knapp’s Relationship Development Model.

The final stage of the Relationship Development Model seen the relationship between Hitch and Sara is shown through the words “I love you” said to each other at the end of the film. This is a smooth continuation of all of the previous stages of the model because in order to get to their current stage of relationship where they feel so deeply about one another, they had to go through all of the previous stages. The relationship between characters Albert and Allegra occurs differently than the relationship between Hitch and Sara. Albert is a financial consultant for Allegra, a famous celebrity. The concept of complementarity plays a big role in their relationship. Complementarity is displayed when the well-known idea that opposites attract, comes true, and two people find what they hope for in a relationship through the other’s differences.

By Albert just being a typical financial consultant and Allegra being a famous celebrity, society did not expect that this would ever be a compatible union. Allegra describes Albert as sweet, charming, and not like all other men, while Albert describes Allegra as the girl of his dreams, his angel, and the lady he would die for and cannot live without. By the two having these similar feelings regarding each other, a connection is made in the way they feel about one another. Through this, they are both able to find reward through their growing relationship. Similarity is found within a developing relationship when two people have similar interests and goals. Rewards in a relationship are defined by the exchange theory. According to the Twelfth Edition of Interplay: The Process of Interpersonal Communication, the exchange theory is defined as the way “we often seek out people who can give us rewards that are greater than or equal to the cost we encounter in dealing with them” (p.283).

In this case, Albert finds Allegra’s personality charming, and feels that she would be a good match for him if she would only pay attention to him. Allegra pays attention to Albert because she knows that he is not like the other men she has previously dated. She finds a sense of security from Albert because she can trust him to love her alone, unlike any of the other men she has dated. In the conclusion of the film, Albert and Allegra get married, which is proof for the bonding and integrating stages of Mark Knapp’s relationship development model. The way in which these relationships are developed is unique to them, and is greatly influenced by their cultures.

Culture

Merriam-Webster defines culture as, ”…the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” Culture is something that is universal in nature, but is unique to every group of people. It is something that makes us as people of the world similar, and drastically different. Hitch looks at culture from a few different perspectives, one being from a familial stance, and the other relating to culture. Culture from a familial perspective deals with the dynamics of a family and how it is run. We are given small glimpses of families throughout Hitch, and for the most part, the culture seems to lean towards an individualistic culture. An individualistic culture is one that Adler (2012) would describe as a group of people who “…view their primary responsibility as helping themselves” (p. 38). People involved in an individualistic culture are very focused on the individual, and their needs in order to further themselves in the world. A collectivistic culture is a type of culture that differs from this in that Adler (2012) speaks of as cultures that “feel loyalties and obligations to an in-group: one’s extended family, community, or even organization one works for” (p. 38).

In Hitch, one of the more prominent characters Sara Melas, describes to Alex Hitchens an incident with her sister. By the way Sara speaks of her sister, Alex is able to figure out that she is speaking of her younger sister, due to the tone in her voice, and the phrasing she is using. Sara’s sister was involved in a near-death experience, and she explains how deeply impactful this experience was and how it has shaped how she lives. She cares very deeply for her younger sister and experiences intense pain and protectiveness when something negative happens. In this way, it seems that Sara is part of a larger collectivistic culture, due to the protectiveness and intense care she shows for her family. In the film, her life is mainly individualistic, but does indeed carry strong undertones of a collectivistic culture. Culture greatly deals with family and how one was raised, but it also heavily impacts individual relationships and how people interact within these connections.

Cultures go about relationships and dating in drastically different ways. In some countries, couples are part of an arranged marriage, in other countries, the courting process is very formal, while in others, such as the one in Hitch, the relationship process is rather casual. Alex Hitchens works to bring couples together who wouldn’t normally be interested in one another, so perhaps one could label this as pairing a person from an in-group, with a person from an out-group. An in-group is a group where we find ourselves being able to identify with its members, whereas an out-group is a grouping of people with whom we would often label as different than us. In Hitch, the characters all deal with a great amount of power distance, which according to Adler (2012) is “…the degree to which members of a society accept an unequal distribution of power” (p. 39).

The odd pairings Hitchens is able to bring together, often possess a higher degree of power distance. For example, Allegra and Albert, two people who no one ever thought could be together due to the extreme differences in their day to day lives and culture, were able to be together because the amount of power distance they saw in their relationships was minimal compared to what the outside world saw. The culture of New York deals with dating in a much more casual and open fashion. The thought that women are always looking for someone to be with, even if they say they’re not looking is extremely stressed. This shows aspects of an individualistic culture, due to the fact that the focus of life is greatly on oneself and the furthering of one’s life. Hitch displays many examples of culture weaved into normal, everyday life, both positive and negative.

Conclusion

The relationships that come together throughout Hitch, are wholly dependent upon communication. Their union is built upon a foundation of communication, both verbal and nonverbal, which is perceived in certain ways, and influenced by culture. The verbal communication is brought through spoken dialogue between people. Nonverbal communication is shown through body language and nonverbal cues, and as seen previously, makes up 60% of communication. Perception of verbal and nonverbal communication is pivotal, due to the fact that it is dependent upon the individual and how they understand something to be. Lastly, culture ties all of these aspects together, because it is due to the culture in which one is raised and the world in which they live in that they understand and interpret life. Hitch is a prime example of these aspects of communication because it brings together many of the important pieces of communication in a way that is easily relatable and understandable to the common person.

References
Adler, R. B., Rosenfeld, L. B., & Proctor II, R. R. (2012). Twelfth edition of interplay: the process of interpersonal communication. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Cardova A., (November 14, 2012) Nonverbal Communication. Interpersonal Communications. Lecture conducted from Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. (2012). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 11/20/2012 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/ Tennant, A. (Director). Lassiter, J., Smith,
W., Zee, T. (Producers). (2005). Hitch [Motion Picture] United States: Columbia Pictures

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