Difference between Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Communication

Psychologists and specialists in media studies suggest a variety of different types of communication. Interpersonal and intrapersonal communications are characterized by different qualities and we will take a closer look at these differences.


Interpersonal vs Intrapersonal Communication
A schematic representation of interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communications refer to the type of communication where two or more people are provided with the means of interaction with one another and are able to exchange information. Interpersonal communication can be direct or mediated, depending on whether the sender and the receiver of the information in the process of communication use media, such as telephone or email. If technology is required for interpersonal communication, then it is a mediated communication. If, on the other hand, two people are exchanging information face to face, then it is a direct communication. Direct communication is characterized by immediacy and primacy. It happens here and now and has a stronger feedback component than a mediated interpersonal communication. It is preferable for people to discuss via means of direct communication things that require immediate feedback in order to continue the discussion.

Interpersonal communication can be categorized by the number of participants.

  • Dyadic communication involves two people. For example, a husband and a wife are discussing things during dinner.
  • Group communication involves three or more persons. Specialists cannot not agree on what should be the maximum number of people involved in order to categorize interpersonal communication as group communication. Often group communication is done for the purpose of solving a problem or making an important decision. Examples: focus group targeting marketing issues; United Nations assembly.
  • Public communication involves a large group with one speaker. There is only a minimal feedback in the course of public communication. Sharing  knowledge, entertainment and ideology-charged speeches are common forms of public communication. Example: University lectures or political campaign speeches.
Intrapersonal Communication
A girl writing her diary as an example of intrapersonal communication

Intrapersonal communication is the type of communication in which a person is communicating to himself. It takes place entirely within a single individual. Purposes of intrapersonal communication can be of various kinds- from clarifying things to meditating and reflecting on complex ideas. There are several levels of activity in intrapersonal communication:

  • Internal discourse involving analysis and rendering information. Psychologists include various dreaming processes in this level of intrapersonal communication.
  • Solo vocal communication, which is performed in order to clarify things or to be relieved of certain thoughts.
  • Solo written communication. At this level of intrapersonal communication an individual expresses his thoughts on paper, being the sole possible reader of the written text. The example of this is a personal diary or an imaginary dialogue between two “identities” of a person via email. This level of intrapersonal communication has to be distinguished from the writings that are addressed to a future audience, such as poetry, love letters, etc.

Comparison chart

Interpersonal communication Intrapersonal communication
Requires two or more persons Requires only one person
Takes a form of exchanging ideas Takes a form of thinking and analysis
May require media Does not require media
A flow of information Information is circuited
Visible Invisible

Interpersonal vs Intrapersonal Communication

What is the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal communication?

  • Intrapersonal communication requires only one person. On the other hand, for interpersonal communication, there are at least two individuals required.
  • Intrapersonal communication usually takes the form of thinking and analyzing. Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, takes the form of exchanging ideas and developing concepts based on the results of the communication between the participating sides.
  • Intrapersonal communication doesn’t require any media to be used. One doesn’t need to call himself via telephone in order to talk the matter over with oneself. Media such as email or a notebook can be involved in intrapersonal communication, but solely for the purpose of self-expression and in order to help analyze the inner processes of an individual. Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, requires either verbal or non-verbal media in order to be performed for obvious reasons. People cannot communicate their thoughts without using language and the technical means to convey thoughts. There is an exception to this, known as “communication via thoughts,” where two minds feel connected, but the quality and productivity of such communication remain questionable.
  • The information in intrapersonal communication is intended only for the person who is producing it. The flow of information is on an internal circuit. In the case of interpersonal communication, on the other hand, the information is shared between at least two people. One of the consequences of this difference in the two types of communication, is that in the case of interpersonal communication the information shared is much more vulnerable and can theoretically be overheard and used by a third party.
  • Intrapersonal communication is invisible. Interpersonal communication in its direct form, on the other hand, is visible. A bystander can tell that two people are communicating with each other. A bystander cannot be sure a person is in the process of intrapersonal communication even if he is talking aloud to himself. After all, there might be a Bluetooth device involved.


In this video you can see an analysis that explains the differences between interpersonal and intrapersonal communication in detail: