Communicative aggression is defined as verbal messages or nonverbal behaviors intended to harm one’s sense of self (Daily et al., 2007). Its discussion is often intermingled with verbal, psychological, or emotional abuse, which happens to be three of its forms. Research suggests that communicative aggression is prevalent in interpersonal relationships. This week, we will explore the connections between media and communicative aggression.
For those who haven’t seen 12 Angry Men (1957), it’s about a jury who judges the guilt of a teenager charged with murder. Immediately in the clip, we’re able to recognize a tense situation. Within the first two sentences from the orator, we can perceive that he’s venting his anger, not to mention lashing out. His specific phrases like “I don’t understand you people,” their “picky little points,” and “you’re making a big mistake” all convey an attempt to humiliate and degrade.
Additionally, he also directs his attention toward anyone similar to the teenager in question as he refers to the word “they” many times. This forces him into the confines of making himself out to be of a higher status than others. “Human life doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to us,” is a perfect example of this.
It’s bad enough that he chalks up a whole group of people under his own black-and-white judgments of them, but he also hides his tirade under the guise of credibility and thought contribution. Though he seeks approval and agreement through shouting and insulting, the situation is handled perfectly. Instead of arguing and possibly feeding the fire, the others refuse to respond and turn their backs on him. Through nonverbal communication, this conveys rejection and shunning. Without it, the man could have possibly continued to believe that his points were altruistic. To put it into perspective, if you were to place yourself in his shoes, you would comprehend the sheer magnitude of that shunning.
While this clip is only one portrayal of communicative aggression, we can see how easily it might be employed. The man used each of the three forms: verbal abuse through losing his temper and insulting; emotional abuse through his ridicule; and psychological abuse through his shaming. Perhaps with an example like this, we can better understand communicative aggression as a whole and address its use. By doing so, we might be able to perceive just how common it really is in our lives and how just often the media portrays it.
Daily, R. M; Lee, C. M. & Spitzberg, B. H. (2007). The dark side of interpersonal communication, 2nd edition. Routledge. 298-299. ISBN: 978-0805857801
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