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Family Relationships in "The Family Stone"

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In the film The Family Stone, there is a vivid depiction of interpersonal communication that is commonly associated with the dynamics of personal relationships; in this case, family relationships. Albeit it mainly features the discord between the main character Meredith and the Stones, it goes a long way in expressing and underscoring the concepts and theories of interpersonal communication discussed in DeVito’s The Interpersonal Communication Book. This essay, therefore, seeks to illustrate a relationship in The Family Stone that alludes to the concepts expressed in the book, especially those in chapters nine and ten.

Meredith and Amy

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In chapter nine, DeVito practically explains the various concepts and dynamics that underlie the building of relationships. The most vital of all this include positive tone as an attempt to preserve a relationship, de-escalation, justification and even the ability to manage the negative identity. Applying these concepts can help one to understand the interpersonal communication clues present in the relationship between Meredith and Amy.

The first discord in the relationship between Amy and Meredith is seen when Amy laments the conversational discomfort associated with Meredith. She illustrates Meredih as domineering and uptight, and Sybil whole-heartedly concurs with her even though she has met Meredith for the first time (London & Bezucha, 2005). The fact that Meredith is aware of this discord makes her commit unsuccessful faux pas in an attempt to repair the relationship (DeVito classifies this as de-escalation, where a party attempts to reduce the negative intensity of a sore relationship). This faux pas only leads to Meredith being ridiculed.

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The situation further escalates between Meredith and Amy when the former insults the latter during dinner. Unlike the head of the Stones, Kelly, Meredith is often quick to express her opinion no matter how contentious or controversial it is. Amy dislikes Meredith to the point of insult when the latter loudly expresses her opinions on gays since her brother, Thad, is gay. Meredith invites her sister, Julie, which DeVito terms as justification, to help her cope with the situation and support her. However, this does not happen since Julie’s interpersonal communication skills (largely evident in the film) make her popular among the Stones.

The relationship type between these Meredith and Amy falls under the categories of family and friendship as explained in chapter ten by DeVito. A dissociated friendship and family relationship, such as the one between Meredith and Amy, can be mended by emplooying solutions given by DeVito in chapter nine on the building of relationships. The first successful attempt to mend this relationship is seen when Meredith gives a framed picture of Sybil while pregnant as a Christmas present. The negative effects of some deeds that often increase the intensity of a relationship are seen when Amy uses American Sign Language (thus, alluding to the inappropriate use of non-verbal communication according to DeVito) to secretly communicate with the other members of the Stone family behind Meredith’s back (DeVito, 2015).

Conclusion

To sum up, the subtle application of concepts of interpersonal communication and relationship building as discussed by DeVito are seen between the main character (Meredith) and the minor character (Amy). The use of justification to avoid blame in a negative relationship is seen when Meredith openly expresses her opinion on gays. The poor choice of de-escalation communication concepts to reduce the intensity of the discomforting relationship between Meredith and Amy is seen to cause ridicule, thus offering little positive change to the relationship. Family relationships like the one discussed in this paper can be built successfully by the good choice of interpersonal communication cues, such as the one used by Meredith when she presents a framed picture of Sybil.

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