Axioms of Interpersonal Communication in Whiplash (2014) movie (Long post)

Please don’t plagiarize this crap

Note: this writing was previously typed in bahasa Indonesia. The original paper can be found in my slideshare. Link:

Axioms or principles in interpersonal communication will be explained more in Interpersonal Communication subject. These axioms was being explained in different versions, although the  most famous ones are by Steven A. Beebe, Joseph DeVito, and Watzlawicket. Interpersonal communication  explain interaction process simultaneously, with immediate feedback and influence each others (Beebe, 1996). So, if we want to know more about this, we should found these axioms in our daily living.  If we still can’t found it, we can found them in a movie, for example whiplash (2014).



Synopsis (IMDB) :


  • Interpersonal communications involves a process of adjustment (Joseph Devito).

In this movie, there are 2 scenes that showed this princips. Scene 1, when Neiman plays the drum alone in the practice room, and then Fletcher, the conductor from the best band the Shaffer Music School, approach Neiman. When he (Fletcher) comes in, he asks ” why did you stop playing?” to Neiman. And then Neiman continue his play. When he (Neiman) finished playing, Fletcher didn’t asked him to continue, but he asked him WHY he stopped playing when Fletcher came. From this scene, Neiman’s bewilderment  is his attempt to communicating with Fletcher, because this is the first time they met.

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And then the next scene is when Neiman asked Nicole to date with him. He also showed his confusion when Nicole reject his date as a joke.


  • We cannot not communicate (Watzlawicket).

Everything we say or don’t, what we do or don’t contain a message. In this axiom, we can’t choose  not to communicate. The communication whether verbal and non verbal or explicit and implicit. We should be more careful when rising eyebrows or staring. In this scene, Fletcher compliments Neiman because he plays his drum very well, thus Tanner staring at Neiman implying he’s jealous, oppositely Neiman looking at Tanner because he wants to show that he’s better than him.


  • Interpersonal communication is contextual (Steven A. Beebe).

How we communicate is being influenced by context. The context can be a psychological context (personality, self-esteem), relational context (level of trust, history of your share), situational context (event or the reason you are communicating), environmental context (furniture, location, time), and cultural context. In this movie, Fletcher talks very POLITE to his old friend than to his band members.

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  • Interpersonal communication is irreversible (Steven A. Beebe).

Once a word goes from your mouth, you can never swallow it again (Beebe, 1996). Maybe we ever get angry and annoyed when losing an argument. And then we’re out of control, get sorry about what we’ve just said. The words hurts others’ feelings thus revealing our other side usually being kept. Even though we try to fix the situation, it will never be the same again.

In this scene, Neiman wants to disconnect his relationship with Nicole, because he’s at his ‘success’, being the best band member at that time. After he’s not in the Sheffrad school band, he’s apologize to Nicole and invite her to a Jazz concert. In the end, Nicole already has a boyfriend and she didn’t come to Jazz concert which is she was being  invited.

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  • Interpersonal communication is complicated (Steven A. Beebe)

It’s very complicated. Just look at this image:


Whoops, sorry. I mean Neiman thinks he’s different from Nicole



Reference and further readings:

Anonim. 2000.  Four Principles of Interpersonal Communication dalam (diakses pada tanggal 13 March 2016)

Anonim. 2010. How All Human Communication fails, Except by Accident, or A Commentary of Wiio’s Laws dalam (diakses pada tanggal 13 March 2016)

DeVito, Joseph. 2013. The Interpersonal Communication Book: 13th Edition. New York, Hunter College University Press.

Wood, Julia. 2016. Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters.North Carolina, University Press.


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