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Types of Communication: Interpersonal & Intrapersonal

Updated March 23, 2017

The ability to communicate ideas, thoughts and feelings serves as the basis for all successful human interaction. Intrapersonal communication refers to the conversation that is continually going on in your own mind. Interpersonal communication refers to the different types of verbal, non-verbal and physical actions or expressions that people use when they communicate with each other.

Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication is the internal dialogue that occurs on a continuous basis in the mind of every person. Types of intrapersonal communication include dreams, day dreams, reading, thinking, talking to oneself, analysis, prayer, meditation, writing, making specific gestures while thinking and even communication between body parts. For example, when lunchtime approaches, your stomach may communicate through hunger pangs or growling.

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication involves all the different ways individuals communicate thoughts, ideas, feelings and desires to another person or group of people. Interpersonal communication is the means to send messages to other human beings through gestures, words, posture and facial expressions. The majority of interpersonal communication utilises non-verbal messages, for instance touch, eye contact, vocal nuance, proximity, gestures, posture, style of dress and facial expression. Given that people may interpret non-verbal cues differently, even seemingly simple communication with other people may prove difficult at times. Interpersonal communication involves two distinct styles.

Direct Interpersonal Communication

Direct interpersonal communication refers to clear and obvious messages that are easily understood by the receiver. The sender controls these type of verbal and non-verbal messages. Verbal communication channels include the use of written and spoken words. Non-verbal communication channels include overt facial expressions, hand gestures, intentional body movements, colours and sounds. The controlled body movements and whistle sounds of a policeman directing traffic serve as a good example of non-verbal, direct interpersonal communication.

Indirect Interpersonal Communication

The other type of interpersonal communication involves indirect channels typically recognised by the receiver subliminally or subconsciously. Senders do not typically control this type of indirect interpersonal communication. Rather than the intended message, emotions, feelings, motivations and desires are communicated to others through body language and almost imperceptible anatomical movements or expressions. For example, a fake social smile uses a singular voluntary facial muscle while an authentic smile uses several involuntary muscle groupings working together. The internationally recognised Facial Action Coding System (FACS) enables trained experts to read these non-verbal human movements or expressions with about 80 per cent accuracy.

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About the Author

Mark Kayo has been a writer for over 30 years and has work published on various websites. He has over 25 years experience writing copy for advertisements, marketing projects, catalogs and television commercials. Kayo has a bachelor's degree in advertising and marketing.