Example Of Term Paper On The Saga Of Sam And Alex
Type of paper: Term Paper
Topic: Relationships, Love, Conversation, Communication, Control, Life, Women, Dialogue
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines communication as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.” Most living creatures communicate with each other. In human beings communication is complex and has been defined and analyzed by many. I will talk about human communication particularly in relation to “The Saga of Sam and Alex.”
Effective communication in everyday life entails the exchange of “good” information, i.e. correct, truthful, relevant and understandable information. When two people meet and start a conversation, the first phase of communication is “small talk.” It is the ritual of greeting, searching for areas of common interest, basically allowing each other to get familiar and create a base for a future relationship. The communication thereby moves from the superficial to the personal level. This is a “bid” to connect and can be reciprocated in various ways. The first can be a positive response which takes the relationship one step forward, next can be negative with an unpleasant response and the third can be negative again where the “bid” is totally ignored or met with a stony silence.
Very often this bid to connect is influenced by the need of one of the parties to control and convince the opposite party of his / her viewpoint. This can be done either subtly in a persuasive manner or aggressively. The method used dictates the direction of the relationship. When “small talk” results in a “problem” there are two ways of solving it, one is through “control talk” which can be “light” or “heavy” and the other is through “dialogue.”
Interpersonal communication is continuous, interweaved, complex and multi-causal. Often this causes one party to use “heavy control” resulting in resistance from the other. The atmosphere gets aggravated; words are exchanged at the heat of the moment that may give a completely different complexion and direction to the conversation involving accusation and blame. While “control talk” starts from reflex and reaction, “dialogue” starts from awareness and acceptance.
Dialogue according to dictionary.com is “an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.” And this can be achieved only when there is flexibility and openness of mind. For dialogue, attention has to shift from trying to control the other to managing one’s self. Attitude has to change from demanding, judgmental, critical and condescending to relaxed, thoughtful, attentive and accommodating. The tone of the voice as well as the phrasing of sentences has to be positive so as to garner cooperation from the other party. The whole body language has to be attentive and non judgmental. Acknowledgement and support of the other’s opinion or viewpoint is an integral part of “dialogue.”
Therefore the best option in case of disagreement is to look at a collaborative conflict resolution wherein individual egos are not allowed to enter the picture. The focus should be exclusively on the problem, there should be an insistence on objective criteria, a search for areas of agreement and options for mutual gain.
This was communication in general among humans. If we go a little deeper we find that there is a great divide in communication between the genders that often result in misunderstandings and conflict. “The Saga of Sam and Alex” is a prime example of this.
According to socio-linguists, even if men and women use the same words, they generally mean different things altogether. They operate on two separate communication platforms. From childhood the stereotype of a boy as opposed to a girl is culturally perpetuated. While physical action, competitive play is a boy’s natural area of interest, emotions and feelings are what girls usually lean towards. As an adult while the man’s use of language and words are aimed at hierarchy and control, a woman’s is to build relationships, deal with feelings. Therefore they often talk at cross- purposes. With regards to relationships, according to a man “if it is working you do not discuss it - talk is for solving problems” while a woman believes “a relationship is working only when you can discuss it.” As Deborah Tannen observes “For males, conversation is the way you negotiate your status in the group and keep people from pushing you around; you use talk to preserve your independence. Females, on the other hand, use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy;” John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus states that “Women use conversation to think through a problem and work toward a solution” while “Men think through a problem privately, then express the solution as the bottom line.”
Interpersonal relationships are necessary in human life to alleviate loneliness, to secure stimulation, to maximize pleasure and minimize pain and to gain self knowledge and self worth. Relationships answer key questions like “Who am I?” and “How do I feel about myself?” The two basics of human relations are proximity and similarity. We interact better when we are close to someone whose interests are similar to our own. A satisfying relationship has three features, investment, commitment and trust and thus naturally the expectations are trust, intimacy, acceptance and support.
The dynamics in a romantic relationship go one step further. Dr Sternberg in his book “The Triangular Theory of Love” states that love is composed of three elements: passion, intimacy and commitment. The relationship goes a step beyond identities and similarities of ideas and tastes. Adjustment, accommodation, loyalty to each other comes into play along with intimacy, pleasure in each other’s company as well as physical attraction and passion. Here while passion is quick to take off and with time levels off, intimacy grows slowly and then levels off. Commitment on the other hand increases gradually, then more rapidly before leveling off.
In the language of romantic love what one feels are the phenomena of i) recognition “a feeling of having known each other in spite of just meeting,” b) timelessness “feeling of recognition for a long period of time,” c) reunification “feeling complete in the relationship,” d) necessity “the feeling of can’t live without you.”
Most life cycles of relationships follow a pattern beginning with coming together where communication is initiated with “small talk” or getting to know each other and then moving on to “connect talk.” This is the phase where two people look for common interests and similarities. Having found those, the relationship moves on to a more intimate and intense level where physical proximity plays a large role. Then they go public with their relationship and start being considered “a couple,” there is a bonding between the two which can translate into marriage or living together or some sort of a partnership.
Some relationships then move on to the coming apart stage when the focus shifts from common interests to differences. Individual egos, likes and dislikes become of prime importance, accommodation of each other’s views diminishes. Often trust is broken, support is withdrawn. There is a marked increase in the use of “heavy control” by both parties resulting in disagreements and fights. Subsequently some relationships completely fall apart while others stagnate. When repeated complaints, criticism and accusations happen it leads to contempt, defensiveness and finally withdrawal. In case of stagnation the relationship is continued due to some external factors eg. children in a marriage, but communication between the two parties break down completely and there is physical and psychological separation.
It is always possible to prevent the breakdown of a relationship if both parties are interested. They have to look beyond themselves and their ego and consider the needs of the other; make an effort to keep interests alive by sharing things that previously gave them pleasure; compromising sometimes even it involves self sacrifice; by responding constructively to conflict.
“The Saga of Sam and Alex” began on the same note as all relations do with “small talk” leading to “connect talk”.
ALEX: Hi. Didn't I see you in English last semester?SAM: Yeah. I'm surprised you noticed me. I cut that class more than I attended. I really hated it.ALEX: So did I. Higgins never did seem to care much about whether you learned anything or not.SAM: That's why I think I skipped so often. Your name's Alex, isn't it?ALEX: Yes. And you're Sam right?
This initial talk led to getting to know each other better, they went for a movie. Obviously their friendship blossomed into love since next we find Alex surprising Sam with a ring, a symbol of commitment. To Sam this was her fantasy come true!
Sam and Alex moved in together and spent two years in a live-in relationship. A lot seemed to have happened within that period including Alex straying and having an affair with someone else. Sam is obviously very hurt and cannot forgive Alex. Their relationship now seems to have stagnated and their personal likes and dislikes take precedence over everything else. The silly fight over the hamburgers is an example of that.
ALEX: (Vigilant annoyance) That's not hamburgers I smell, is it?SAM: (Defensive annoyance) Yes, it is. I like hamburgers. We can afford hamburgers. And I know how to cook hamburgers. Make something else if you don't want’ em.ALEX. (Heavy sarcasm) Thanks so much. Nice to know you care to make something I really like. I hate these damn things. And I really hate’em four times a week.SAM: (Sharp, cold anger) Then eat out.ALEX: (Frustration) You know I have work to do tonight. I haven’t got time to go out.SAM: (Contempt) So shut up and eat the burgers. I love them.ALEX: (Sarcasm) Great. It’s all about you. Whatever happened to us and we?SAM: (Angry sadness) They died when I found out about your little side trips up north.
Their relationship disintegrates because the conflict is not handled constructively. Sam, particularly, finds it difficult to get over her hurt, forget the past and forgive Alex for his aberration. His apologies make no difference and she finally admits “Maybe separation is the best thing.”
Sam and Alex’s relationship could not stand the test of time. Although they did stay together for a certain period of time, there was complete stagnation with no physical or psychological communication. As speech pathologist Lillian Glass says in her book “He Says, She Says: Closing the Communication Gap Between the Sexes” Women tend to take verbal rejection more personally than men and therefore Sam admits
SAM: When I learned about your little “trips”, I just couldn't deal with it. I guess I tried to protect myself and, in the process, I just lost my feelings for you.ALEX: (Apprehensive) Then why do you stay with me? Why don't you leave?SAM: (Fearful, acceptance) I don't know. Maybe I'm afraid to be alone. I'm not sure I can do it alone.ALEX: (Frustrated, annoyed) So you're going to stay with me because you're afraid to be alone? That's crazy. Crazy. I'd rather have us break up than live like this a loveless pair, living separate lives under the same roof. What kind of life is that?SAM: (Sad acceptance) Not much.ALEX: (Angry acceptance) Fine. Then let's separate. I can't live with someone who stays with me out of fear of being alone, who doesn’t want to be touched, and who doesn’t want to love me. (Pause, softer)maybe we need some distance, maybe you’ll realize that we should try again.
Instead of calling it quits completely if Sam and Alex separated for a while; put some space between each other and allowed themselves to miss each other, maybe they would have realized how much they actually cared and their relationship could have got a second chance.
Merriam Webster Dictionary. Online
Tannen, Deborah. “You Just Don’t Understand” Ballantine Books. 1990
Gray, John. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” Harper Collins. 1992
Glass, Lillian. “He Says, She Says: Closing the Communication Gap between the Sexes”
Putnam Publishing Group. 1993
Sternberg Robert. “The Triangular Theory of Love” Basic Books. 1988
Dialogues from “The Saga of Sam and Alex”