Interpersonal Communication in YouTube Videos

Interpersonal communication is undoubtedly an essential aspect of any person’s everyday life. While it may sound like a rather scientific term, it is not so for the reason that it is intrinsic to any human being co-existing with other people around. Interplay: the Process of Interpersonal Communication is an academic book that helps to look at everyday situations and dig deeper into them to understand the implication of interpersonal communication between people. This assignment aims to the following thesis: how YouTube clips demonstrate the totality of multifaceted interpersonal communication. The videos which are used in this assignment are the Oracle Vase scene from Matrix, the Truth scene from Sex and the City, and a humorous scene from Rush Hour 3.

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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Equivocation

First, one needs to consider the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy and its stages. According to Adler, Rosenfield, and Proctor (2017), a self-fulfilling prophecy is a situation when a person’s expectations and behavior, which are based on these expectations, make the result more likely. There are four stages of this process: having expectations, acting according to them, the realization of expectations, and their reinforcement (Adler et al., 2017). Apart from stages, there are also types of self-fulfilling prophecy, such as self-imposed prophecies and the ones when a person’s expectations influence another person’s actions (Adler et al., 2017). The chosen clip belongs to the second type because there are two main actors in it. While the Oracle is telling Neo not to worry about the vase, he turns around and knocks on a vase (Briland Family, 2016). The Oracle is the one communicating her belief, telling Neo no to worry about the vase. This belief impacts Neo, who is then exposed to what the Oracle told him not to worry about.

Another model which is brought up in the clip is one of the alternatives to self-disclosure, equivocation. The clip shows the first encounter between Neo and the Oracle, as Neo states a question whether the lady sitting in the room is the Oracle. What makes one think that the model of equivocation is used in the clip is the line the Oracle asks Neo replying to his question about how she could know that he would have broken the vase. Although there is no agreement on to what extent equivocation generates a “competent form of communication”, there is an agreement on its basic definition (Bello, Brandau-Brown, & Ragsdale, 2016, p. 4). Equivocation always sends some known signal, although it is uncertain what the sender of it means (Kittler, 2018). The question of the Oracle can be counted as equivocation because it neither answers Neo’s question nor conveys a clear message.

This model is an alternative to self-disclosing, therefore, for its understanding, it is necessary to look at self-disclosure. Its communication subject is the self, which intentionally communicates a message to another subject (Adler et al., 2017). At first, it may seem that the last words of the Oracle disclose anything about her skills, but they don’t. Her question contains another expectation that it is going to make Neo’s brains explode. The receiver understands the underlying point, and, in this case, Neo has to a degree grasped that the Oracle wanted to make him believe that it was her making him knock the vase.

Although both models explain quite different aspects of communication between two characters, they can be applied to it. Even in such a short interaction, one can notice the interplay between self-fulfilling prophecy and equivocation. Both of them revolve around two subjects and also influence two subjects to a great extent. The first model explains how powerful the beliefs of one person can be, but also how easily a person can be affected by someone’s beliefs. The second model stands on the idea of deceiving someone’s self by making others believe that the abilities of the former have influenced him. Neo eventually manages to force the Oracle to open about her vague self even without giving a clear answer.

Perception Check and Empathy

To understand the perceptions of others and, in its turn, to help others understand the perception of ourselves, one can turn to perception check. It is a tool that consists of three elements: a description of the behavior, two possible interpretations, and a request for clarification (Adler et al., 2017). The idea of a perception check doesn’t imply that all its parts have to be used for it to effective.

The clip demonstrating the last point is the one taken from Sex and the City (Dlkolegaev, 2012). In the clip, Miranda runs into her friend named Sheila in the street, who jumps to the question about Miranda having a significant other. So, in this part, one cannot stand but observe that Sheila doesn’t specify what part of Miranda’s behavior she doesn’t understand. On the opposite, she rushes into asking whether Miranda has a partner assuming that she doesn’t have one. Then Sheila gets an answer that Miranda doesn’t have a partner, which makes her deduce just one interpretation of it. She says that a significant other for Miranda is out there, and she didn’t have a chance to meet him yet. Her only attempt to get a real clarification is using the word right as a tag question.

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Based on the theory behind the concept of perception check, one does not have to use all its components but can get by offering only one interpretation instead. What is peculiar about the example discussed above is whether this curiosity of Sheila can be counted as a perception check. The answer is that possibly it is a perception check which leads to the further understanding that two women have quite different perceptions of soulmates. Furthermore, this perception check, which may not have been meant as such by Sheila, also disclosed the level of empathy these two people have.

Empathy helps people to understand others better, and it helps to improve the quality of understanding. Just finding out about the perception does not entail that there is some empathy towards the other person. As in the case of Miranda and Sheila, the interpretation offered by Sheila may not eventually qualify as a form of empathy. What qualifies as empathy is the comprehension of Miranda that everybody has sore spots, including herself. Based on this insight, she takes her further decision to leave Sheila without retaliation for digging into her Achilles’ hill. Miranda’s empathy is expressed in the second dimension of empathy, named emotional contagion. According to Gernot, Pelowski, and Leder (2018), people have different levels of emotional contagion, as it is strongly linked to a person’s own experiences. The clip, therefore, clearly demonstrates clashing perceptions, which have diverging levels of empathy.

To sum it up, perception check and empathy, in this case, are connected because of the sensitivity of the subject brought up by both conversation partners. As Miranda realizes that she is not the only vulnerable person in the dialogue she is having with her old mate, she drops it and leaves. The perception check utilized by Sheila is, thus, a trigger mechanism for Miranda’s empathy. In the case of Sheila, her questions and interpretation of why Miranda is still alone show that she doesn’t experience empathy at the level Miranda does.

Subjective and Rule-governed Language

Problems in communication are common, and they occur because people attach different meanings to seemingly same things. As the example in the book illustrates, two people may have an hour-long argument, and later find out they implied utterly different things by “feminism” (Adler et al., 2017). This idea is demonstrated in the triangle of meaning developed by Ogden and Richards to explain a fragile relationship between the word itself and the idea it represents (Hampton, 2016). This concept supports the idea of subjectivity of the language, and can, therefore, be applied to the clip from Rush Hour 3 (NoslsBack, 2014). In the clip agent, Carter is arguing with an old monk named You.

In the scene, Carter asks a monk about his name, to which a monk answers that his name is You. Since Carter doesn’t have any idea about the existence of the name You, for him, this is just a pronoun in the English language. In this situation, the symbol, which is the word “you”, does not represent Carter the name, but only a pronoun (Kruger, 2016). For the monk, it is different since he is called “You”, so he may share the confusion of Carter, but doesn’t relate to it. To solve this confusion, two people need to be able to communicate effectively to change references and get the referent right. However, Carter decided to turn to the monk’s student whose name is “Me”, so the confusion is just growing.

This situation would be a real problem if not used in a comedy. The fact that there is humor involved makes everything seem harmless. What is also interesting in this clip is that the misunderstanding between Carter and You points to the fact that language is based on rules. Knowing that language is subjective helps to understand that the rules are sometimes implicit, not completely precise, and even not followed. Therefore, one may need to turn to other ways to improve understanding and resolve the misunderstanding. In the situation of Carter and You, the semantic rule has not quite worked, as Carter did not know that You might also mean someone s name. While the other three rules seem to have functioned, this one failed for one of the characters.

Language should be considered in its aggregate composition as a cognitive faculty. Only then the problems in misunderstanding can be apprehended and solved. Therefore, this clip provides a stimulus for a closer look at the interplay between two concepts of language as being governed by the rules and language as a subjective phenomenon. Only by looking at this humorous situation by analyzing language as the subjective cognitive faculty which is governed by the rules to a certain degree can one understand why communication between two partners failed.

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The examples considered in this essay vary to a high degree. However, they all illustrate the hidden ideas behind the problems in communication between different subjects. Taking them into account as various examples of interpersonal interaction, there is a real abundance of aspects that can be examined. This essay has discussed the application of several models, but there is more to raising the quality of apprehension of social interaction between individuals. However, for now, it can be stated that the connection between such models as self-fulfilling prophecy and equivocation, perception check and empathy, and two models concerning the functioning of language can explain implicit sides of interpersonal communication more comprehensively.


Adler, B. R., Rosenfield, L.B., & Proctor, R.F. (2017) Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Bello, R. S., Brandau-Brown, F. E., & Ragsdale, J. D. (2016). Managing boundary turbulence through the use of information manipulation strategies: A report on two Studies. Cogent Social Sciences, 2(1), 1-21.

Gernot, G., Pelowski, M., & Leder, H. (2018). Empathy, einfühlung, and aesthetic experience: The effect of emotion contagion on appreciation of representational and abstract art using fEMG and SCR. Cognitive Processing, 19(2), 147-165.

Hampton, J. A. (2016). Concepts in the semantic triangle. Web.

Kittler, M. (2018). Do we understand each other? Discussing academic exchange from a cross-cultural communication perspective. International Studies of Management & Organization, 48(3), 333-351.

Kruger, F. (2016). Attitude change through understanding (cognition) of the influence of the persuasive language of liturgy. HTS Theological Studies, 72(2), 1-11.

Briland Family. (2016). Movies – Matrix, the Oracle’s vase scene [Video file]. Web.

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NoslsBack. (2014). Rush Hour 3 – You? Me? Him? [Video file]. Web.

Dlkolegaev. (2012). The truth [Video file]. Web.

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