Verbal and non-verbal communication concepts in movie “The Break-Up”

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The movie titled The Break-up depicts the conflicts of a young couple that has problems with communication. Gary and Brooke are unable to sustain their relationship because they do not understand the importance of communication. The strategies that they use in resolving their issues worsen the situation. Throughout the film, one of the evident concepts is the significance of verbal communication. Notably, verbal communication denotes either written or spoken words (Duck & McMahan, 2014). There is evidence that verbal communication is of great significance in a functional relationship. On the other hand, the movie depicts aspects of non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication denotes the use of gestures, facial expressions, body positions, unspoken presuppositions, and paralanguage (Knapp et al., 2014). Throughout the movie, the viewer experiences the impact of non-verbal communication on both Gary and Brooke. This paper will discuss the importance of the two concepts with evidence from the film.


Verbal communication is of critical importance in any functional relationship. A couple must be able to use written and spoken words wisely with the core objective of communicating a certain message. In the movie, the use of verbal communication is specifically through the use of sounds and words (Duck & McMahan, 2014). Garry and Brooke use verbal communication as an important aspect of their relationship. However, both Gary and Brooke do not display a remarkable appreciation for non-verbal communication in the relationship (Knapp et al., 2014). They use words to hurt each other and often engage in endless arguments. When Brooke feels that Gary has done something wrong, she starts arguing and screaming. During the arguments, Gary and Brooke blame each other for the conflicts in their relationship. For instance, Brooke requested Gary to bring 12 lemons for the centerpiece while Gary only brought three. During this scene, the argument escalated to shouting and screaming because Brooke felt that Gary lacked effective listening skills. In her view, she was trying her best to communicate effectively, but it was not working. Gary and Brooke lacked critical verbal communication skills that help a couple understand each other (Reed, 2006). It is a common practice for people to critically examine the words that they use in conversations with their loved ones. However, Gary and Brooke were careless and did not exhibit any competency of using verbal communication to save their relationship (Duck & McMahan, 2014). The couple does not recognize simple regulative rules that govern verbal communication. These regulative rules help an individual to determine the most appropriate time for talking and the best approach to use when communicating with someone. Garry and Brooke exhibit a significant incompetence in applying the regulative rules.

It is apparent that Garry and Brooke do not understand the constitutive rules that govern verbal communication. The constitutive rules help an individual to reflect on what different words or phrases mean. Brooke and Garry carelessly used words without giving attention to their potential impact on each other (Reed, 2006). While verbal communication can help a couple to resolve their issues, it is evident that the movie demonstrated how the lack of skills in verbal communication could compromise a relationship. It is explicit that verbal communication not only involves the use of words and sounds, but also includes a critical understanding of the purpose of verbal communication (Duck & McMahan, 2014). Misusing verbal communication can strain a relationship just as the case with Gary and Brooke. Their screaming and shouting served to enhance their conflicts. The effective use of verbal communication requires a critical self-reflection that helps an individual to develop an effective strategy that is evident in the choice of words, tone, and pitch. Gary and Brooke do not have any of these competencies, and they do not practice any form of self-reflection before or after talking.

About 65% of communication represents non-verbal communication. The use of body language and unspoken presuppositions conveys a deeper message. From a critical analysis of Gary and Brooke, non-verbal communication demonstrated their inner feelings and intentions. Attaching meanings to their non-verbal behaviors and habits is possible (Knapp et al., 2014). Particularly, the couple’s body positions and motions depict deeper messages concerning their attitude and their level of care towards each other. When Gary comes into the house, he only takes off his shoes and seats on the couch without saying a word to Brooke. He does not give a single glance to Brooke, gestures that communicate his lack of care and concern for his partner. Brooke has monitored the use of non-verbal communication to make Gary guilt for his actions or jealous (Reed, 2006). Her decision to walk around the house naked is meant to provoke certain feelings from Gary. Her primary intention is to have his attention and only asks for it using non-verbal communication. Gary opts for silence, which is a critical element of non-verbal communication. When he chooses to maintain his silence, it is clear he does not want to talk or to resolve the issues at hand. He focuses on video games by immersing all his senses into the games and giving little attention to Brooke.

The use of non-verbal communication serves to augment the use of words. Throughout the movie, non-verbal communication helps in recognizing that the couple has serious problems (Knapp et al., 2014). Through their body positions, movements, and gestures, they exhibit their little level of concern and care for each other. The couple uses non-verbal communication to express the underlying attitudes that they have nurtured throughout the relationship (Knapp et al., 2014). For example, Gary uses silence as a form of non-verbal communication when he does not want any disturbance from Brooke. His body positions and focus on the video games demonstrate that he is frustrated about the relationship and does not care what happens to Brooke (Reed, 2006). Brooke can read meaning into Gary’s gestures, body movements, and other forms of non-verbal communication. She can deconstruct a simple gesture and understand how much Garry does not care about the relationship.


Throughout the film, there are aspects of verbal communication and non-verbal communication that demonstrate how the couple communicates. A critical view of the verbal communication reveals that the couple lacks basic interpersonal communication skills. Both Gary and Brooke are unable to use verbal communication to sustain their relationship (Duck & McMahan, 2014). The couple does not understand the regulative and constitutive rules governing verbal communication. The use of non-verbal communication helps the viewer to read a deeper meaning into the actions of Gary and Brooke. Particularly, Gary shows his disinterest in the relationship using non-verbal communication. Brooke uses various concepts of non-verbal communication to demonstrate that Gary is not making any efforts to make the relationship work (Reed, 2006). The film helps in appreciating the importance of both verbal and non-verbal communication in relationships. Individuals should be able to master basic competencies in both verbal and non-verbal communication.

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  1. Duck, S., & McMahan, D. T. (2014). Communication in everyday life: A survey of communication. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.
  2. Knapp, M. L., Hall, J. A., Horgan, T. G., Knapp, Mark L., Hall, Judith A., & Horgan, Terrence G. (2014). Nonverbal communication in human interaction. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  3. Reed, P. (Dir). (2006). The Break-up. Retrieved on 8th November 2017 from
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