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Communication is the process of exchanging or imparting information via speaking, writing or using various forms of media.  Thus there are 3 main components in communication: a communication channel, sender and receiver. It entails the transmission of both non-verbal and verbal messages.  However the message may be distorted during communication.  Communication barriers may include bias and preconceived notions. Consequently, a message may be misconstrued by the receiver. Interpersonal communication emanates from human interaction. In the process, individuals exchange feelings and information. The information is relayed verbally and also using non-verbal cues.  A comparative study will be conducted on the communication features in African American and European American families.  This is via analysis of prime time shows for each racial group. The shows that depict European American families are “Modern family” and “Everybody loves Raymond”.  For the African American families, “The Bernie Mac Show” and “The Cosby Show” will be reviewed.

“Everybody loves Raymond” revolves around the life of Raymond. He is married to Debra and they have three children (a teenage daughter and young twin sons). His parents (Frank and Marie), and brother (Richard) live across the street. There is a close knit American Family.  Raymond’s brother and parents constantly feature in Raymond’s life much t the chagrin of Debra.  Marie antagonizes her daughter in law but is the doting grandmother to the children. This is an example of family conflict in communication behavior.  Marie   is intent on being part of her son’s life, and is not about to give Debra any breathing space.  She demands to be informed on the events in Ray’s life. In the lucky suit episode, she admonishes Ray for not alerting her that he would feature in a television show.  Without knocking, she enters their home and begins to complain.  Shortly, an enraged Robert enters the scene. He is angry because Marie sabotaged his interview by sending a fax that downplays on his manhood. Robert vehemently accuses his mother of sabotage. He asserts that Marie wants to remain in control, and that is the reason she does not want Robert to make progress.  This is a manifestation of conflict and tension according to the relational dialects theory.

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Modern family is a popular sitcom that explores the lives of another extended family. There are three families: a gay couple (Cameron and Mitchell) and their adopted daughter Lily.  The other family comprises of Jay (Mitchell’s father), Gloria and their son Manny.  In the same neighborhood there is another family, and it comprises of Claire (Jay’s sister) and she is married to Phil. The couple has three children (Haley, Alex and Luke).  This is a close knit extended family and the members interact at a very intimate level.  Phil and Claire are a loving couple and with respect to communication behavior they are supportive. Claire is a soccer mom and she supports Phil’s ventures. Phil is a real estate agent and plans to hold a seminar for prospective home buyers.  Claire attentively follows Phil’s briefing   as he prepares for the seminar.  Haley demands for payment and Claire gives a sarcastic response. She informs Haley that the response will be texted in the cell-phone that her parents paid for.  Nevertheless Haley and Gloria assist Phil to prepare for the seminar. Evidently, the entire extended family is supportive.

Jay’s family is marked by ethnic diversity and it is not a typical European American family.  Gloria and her Son Manny are Latin Americans. Gloria is famous for her Spanish dialect and her spoken English is heavily accented with Spanish.  She also has peculiar communication skills. She yells throughout a conversation over the phone.  For Gloria, yelling demonstrates love for family members.  In European American circles, yelling is done to demonstrate anger in conversations.  This clash of communication behavior is attributed to the contextual principle of interpersonal communication.  In the cultural context, yelling is acceptable and is viewed as a sigh of love amongst Hispanics. However, yelling is done at a point of anger or displeasure among European Americans.

Claire has a competitive streak and Phil has always found the need to outdo his daughter.  Luke and Manny have to complete a school project, but Claire and Phil intervene in order to outdo each other. Claire and Phil are rooting for Luke and Manny respectively. Initially, Phil deliberately lies to Claire that he is not assisting Manny.  Claire also lies that she does not intend to help Luke.  Deliberate lying in communication serves as a manipulation strategy.  Phil and Claire attempt to dissuade each other from helping the boys. They both intend to help the boys and each wants the son to win.

The gay couple is well accommodated and there are no incidences of homophobia.  This demonstrates societal tolerance to homosexuality. In fact Cameron and Mitchell intend to adopt another child.  They attempt to make a good impression on an expectant mother who intends to give away her baby.  The attempt to persuade the mother is an example of the stages concept in interpersonal communication. A stranger need to feel comfortable and satisfied with the other party before he/she can establish a relationship. According to the uncertainty reduction theory, individuals aspire to reduce uncertainty via understanding and knowledge.  She wants her baby to be raised by a responsible couple. The surrogate mother also has special preferences for the food her baby should eat. In addition, she would like the baby to be raised in a musical environment. For this reason, she asks Cameron and Mitchell to sing so that she can scrutinize their music abilities.  The gay couple obliges as they want to adopt her baby.

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The Cosby show stars Bill Cosby as Clifford Huxtable.  Cliff is married to Phylicia and they have one son (Theodore) and four daughters (Rudith, Vanessa, Sondra and Denise).  It is a close-knit family and in the episode 4 of season 2, Cliff in love, we encounter a possessive dad. The title is indeed ironic as Cliff tries to match make Sondra with the ideal lad.  The episode begins with conflict as Sondra breaks up with her boyfriend, Alvin. Alvin is guilty of turning up late for a date.  Instead of honoring their scheduled dinner plans, Alvin opts to be in his buddies’ company.  Sondra interprets this as an act of betrayal. Apparently, Alvin does not give much thought to Sondra as he clearly prefers his buddies over her. This is Sondra’s perspective of the scenario.   In communication, a lot of meaning is attached to an individual’s actions. Alvin professes undying love to Sondra, but his actions are indicative of a non-caring person. 

The effects of Sondra’s heartbreak reverberate in the entire Huxtable family.  Sondra picks lashes out at Theodore for drinking all the milk. She likens Theodore to her loser boyfriend. And boldly asserts that all men are the same. This is an aspect of stereotyping as she generalizes all men as uncaring individuals. Following her nasty experience with Alvin, she feels that all men are selfish.   Theodore is not different as he drains the milk bottle. However, this was an innocent act as Theodore offers Sandra some milk but she rudely declines.   She continues to sulk and remains miserable.  In response, her parents reach out and they succeed in lifting her spirits. This represents a support system in communication.

Cliff is impressed with  Derrel, another lad who calls on Sandra.   In the strategies concept of intrapersonal communication, Cliff conducts a brief interview on Derrel.  In Cliff’s eyes, Derrel  fits the picture of perfection. He is a responsible young man who attends pre-med school. Unlike Alvin, he is not a male chauvinist and does not mind cooking for wife. As the title of the episode suggest, Cliff is in love with Derrel  as the ideal son in law.  He makes all attempts to form a match between Sondra and Derrel.

Cliff’s encounter with Alvin is far from pleasant. First, Cliff is reluctant to usher Alvin into the house. This is a sign of conflict in communication.  His face is stern and all these non-verbal cues in communication express Cliff’s disgust with Alvin.  Alvin further annoys Cliff by asserting that a married woman should always cook for her husband and family. For Alvin, it’s improper for a man to prepare a meal.  These views show the stereotype marriage scenario envisioned by Alvin. Men should work, and women should remain at home and attend to domestic chores.  He is a male chauvinist who abhors the concept of a career woman. As a sign of remorse, Alvin presents Sondra with blue flowers.  Just like the flowers, he claims to feel blue.  Cliff frowns when he listens to Alvin’s apology.

Phylicia does not dismiss Alvin as she believes that individuals can change. Opinions are fluid and highly susceptible to change.  In fact she takes a proactive role in rebuking Alvin. This is a strategy to change Alvin. It begins when Alvin displays surprise when Phylicia offers coffee.  Alvin has preconceived notions about career women like Phylicia. He does not expect Phylicia to serve coffee. Her reaction is that of an incensed but assertive black woman.  She advices Alvin to drop his macho attitude. According to Phylicia, relationships are reciprocal as both partners need to assist each other. Each party must give in order to receive.

The Bernie Mac Show stars comedian Bernie Mac and he is married to Wanda and they adopt Stacy’s ( Bernie’s sister) children.  There are two nieces (Bryana and Vanessa) and one nephew (Jordan).  Bernie struggles in parenthood especially with the rebellious Bryana. This is an example of conflict in communication. Overall, it is a close knit family and all members are supportive off each other.

In conclusion similarities are noted in communication for both African American and European American families.  All families exhibit some aspect of conflict in communication.  In addition, all the families are united and this is exhibited in supportive communication. However, there is intense tension in “Everybody loves Raymond”.  Nevertheless all the family members love each other and the tension is promptly resolved.  The Cosby show is marked by stereotyping and chauvinistic intonations.  The Bernie Mac Show is characterized by teenage rebellion.

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