When Harry Met Sally

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The film “When Harry Met Sally” is rife with examples of interpersonal communication victories and utter failures. The main characters- Harry Burns played by Billy Crystal and Sally Albright played by Meg Ryan- are captive to each other’s company during a car ride from Chicago to New York and quickly find they maintain very opposite viewpoints on much of life, especially relationships between men and women. The premise for the argument and the remainder of the film is the disagreement as to whether or not women and men can be friends without sex getting in the way. Harry maintains it is not possible, and Sally takes the opposite position. Throughout the film Harry and Sally display a number of different communication traits. Their style of communication is determined largely by the way they regard themselves and the way they perceive others. These factors of communication provide for a rollercoaster of interactions throughout the film.

The way that one regards themself, a relatively stable set of perceptions about one’s self, is referred to as self-concept (Adler, Proctor, Rosenfeld 56). Self-concept is a reflection not only of the physical attributes but also the emotional, moral, value, and preference characteristics of personality. The way that someone feels about those qualities will determine their self-esteem, part of the self-concept that determines self-worth. Typically it is thought that a high self-esteem is preferable over a low self-esteem, and while that is largely true, a high self-esteem doesn’t necessarily mean that person will enjoy interpersonal success. A high self-esteem may lead people to think they are more successful than the rest of the world sees them. “It’s easy to see how people with an inflated sense of self-worth could irritate others by coming across as condescending know-it-alls, especially when their self-worth is challenged” (Adler, Rosenfeld, Proctor 56).

There are many examples of Harry exhibiting an inflated sense of self-worth in the movie. One such clear example is famous café scene in which Sally fakes an orgasm. To summarize the conversation; Harry and Sally are discussing their relational pursuits since their previous relationships fell apart. Harry concludes that he is a master of love-making and that because he is able to fully satisfy his dates it is excusable for him to skip staying the night. Sally is appalled by his behavior and in typical Harry fashion he brushes it off, concluding that he is just more adept at the dating game than Sally. It never occurs to Harry that the women he is certain are “having a good time” could possibly be faking it. It is at this point that Sally fakes an orgasm at the table, at which point Harry must concede he may not be the stud he thought he was.

This somewhat extreme example drives home the point of several facets of self-concept and the potential dangers of how easily it is influenced. Men and women are both susceptible to forming concepts of self based on comparisons to others, a process referred to as social comparison. Both sexes are influenced by magazine ads, billboards, television and movies, and other forms of advertisement that tell viewers how they should, look, act, and perform. People make self-worth determinations based on how superior or inferior they are to the subjects they use to evaluate their own characteristics. Social scientists call these subjects reference groups. During a lunch meeting with two of her friends Sally engages in a discussion about other women, and her lunch company, in which they compare themselves based on their current relational status. This is a small scale example of women basing their self-worth off the comparative successes and failures of others.

In the realms of entrepreneurship and sales there is a strong pull to make assessments of self-worth based upon comparisons of one’s peer group. In the sales organization it is often built in to the culture,...
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