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Interpersonal Vs. Intrapersonal: Keys To Communicate


People often confuse interpersonal vs intrapersonal skills and communication styles. But the truth is, they are actually opposites, and not interchangeable at all! The key is in the root of the word — “inter” means between people or groups, and “intra” means inside a person or a group. Both are important in their own ways for success in work, school, and life.

Read on to find out exactly what they are and how to improve your intrapersonal and interpersonal skills.

Interpersonal Vs. Intrapersonal: Be Strong In Both

Developing both your intrapersonal communication (within yourself), and your interpersonal communication (between yourself and others), will ultimately bring you success in life.

One is not more important than the other, and it is okay to be stronger in one type — but working on both interpersonal vs intrapersonal communication over time is the way to go if you want to do well in school, work, and improve your personal relationships.

What Is Interpersonal Communication?

Interpersonal communication is the communication where exchange of ideas and information happens between two or more people by way of any channel. This can be face to face, online, over the phone, or in written forms as well.

There are several aspects that make this type of communication explicitly interpersonal:

  • Inescapable: Even when we hold some thought inside us and do not let it out verbally, it will take its form in other nonverbal aspects of communication such as mood, attitude, or body language.
  • Irreversible: Once something is written, said, or submitted, it cannot be taken back. It is forever in the minds of others.
  • Complex: There is a high chance of miscommunication between sender and receiver, therefore interpersonal communication is complex.
  • Contextual: Context is an integral part of this type of communication, and the context can be situational, environmental, and relational.
Two women communicating at a table
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

What Is Intrapersonal Communication?

Intrapersonal communication is the communication done with oneself. Included are the thoughts, assessments, contemplations, and feelings that are associated with one’s inner communication.

Here are some things that are uniquely intrapersonal:

  • Self-Concept: One’s own self concept is at the center of intrapersonal communication. It includes an evaluation of one’s own beliefs, values and attitudes, and how that evaluation plays into what occurs in the outer world.
  • Perception: Perception is how people interpret what is going on around them. Perception can influence intrapersonal communication.
  • Expectation: Expectations are based upon intrapersonal communication with one’s own self, and are predictions of what will happen based on perceptions of what has happened.
University of the People student practicing intrapersonal communication
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Differences Between Interpersonal Vs. Intrapersonal Communication

The biggest difference that you need to know about between interpersonal vs intrapersonal communication is that interpersonal is between two or more people, and intrapersonal is between you and yourself.

Here are the other main differences:

1. Parties Involved

In interpersonal communication, there’s always more than one person. It doesn’t matter if the communication happens online, over the phone, or in an email. Two people communicating means interpersonal.

This is in contrast to intrapersonal communication which is only done within one’s own mind with one’s own thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

2. Reasons

The reasons you may want to use interpersonal communication is to tell a story, share an idea or experience, or relay information to someone else or a group of people.

The reasons you may be using intrapersonal communication is to reflect on something that happened, make goals and plans, visualize the future, and get closer with your own feelings.

3. Media And Feedback

Feedback for interpersonal communication can be vast — it may be verbal, nonverbal (such as a shrug, nod, or eyebrow raise), or it may be oral or written. Interpersonal feedback can be in person, over the phone, on a computer, or in a letter.

Media used for intrapersonal communication is much simpler — it is always going to be considered in person, although can be done live, in audio recordings, or in writing. Feedback for intrapersonal communication is hard to define. Your feedback is your own and only you know how you react to your own feelings, thoughts, and ideas.

Interpersonal vs intrapersonal communication UoPeople infographic

What Are Intrapersonal Skills?

What does it mean to be intrapersonal? An intrapersonal person is someone with strong intrapersonal skills. They are very connected with themselves, and know what they feel, need, and want.

Some of skills highly intrapersonal people have are:

1. Visualization

This is the ability to see things in the mind, how they are meant to be or how you plan them. Many athletes, artists, and politicians have great visualization skills and can ‘see’ themselves in a situation, and make plans for how to succeed in that situation.

2. Recognize Negativity

When things start becoming negative in your mind, it is important to stop and realize that it is happening. Being aware of negative thoughts, and having the power to turn them around is an important intrapersonal skill.

3. Compassion

Being able to see another person’s perspective, and therefore have compassion for them is an intrapersonal skill as well. Putting aside your own views and your own experiences is a part of having compassion.

4. Decision Making

When it comes time to make a decision, an intrapersonal person has the ability to scan potential options, visualize them, and make the right decision. The ability to do so without stress and inner conflict is a skill that you can achieve with practice.

University of the People student reflecting from NYC window
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How Does Interpersonal Communication Work?

Great interpersonal communication comes from two or more people who have high levels of skills that interpersonal communication requires. When two sides are able to listen effectively, convey themselves accurately, and be active participants in the conversation, this is the start to excellent interpersonal communication.

What Are Interpersonal Skills?

1. Communication

There are three types of communication: verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and public speaking. All three need to be strong in order for someone to have high interpersonal skills.

2. Conflict Management

Interpersonal communication is done by more than one person, and when that happens, there is bound to be conflict at one point or another. It is important to have good conflict management, both between you and others, and for managing others’ conflicts.

3. Empathy

Listening to others, putting yourself in their shoes and understanding them is what empathy is all about. And if you are able to have strong empathy, you are one step closer to mastering the art of interpersonal communication.

4. Leadership

Having strong leadership skills means the ability to motivate and encourage others to help everyone succeed. You don’t need to be in a leadership position to be a leader.

5. Listening

Interpersonal communication is not just about expressive communication, but receptive as well — and that means listening! Taking an active listening role as someone is speaking is a great way to level up your interpersonal skills.

Two women communicating with coffee and notebooks open
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6. Negotiation

Being a great negotiator goes hand-in-hand with having high interpersonal skills. Negotiating requires listening skills, planning and visualization, and problem solving — all important parts of interpersonal communication.

7. Positive Attitude

When you have a positive attitude, you are bound to have positive interactions with other people. This interpersonal skill will help you succeed in school, work, and in your personal life.

8. Teamwork

Interpersonal communication is communication with more than one person, so of course teamwork is key. Collaboration, teambuilding, active listening, and conflict resolution are all important team-based aspects of interpersonal communication.

How To Improve Intrapersonal Skills

One of the most important parts of being intrapersonal is awareness — awareness of your own mind, of yourself in situations, and awareness of how you are perceived by others.

While it may not be so obvious, one way to improve intrapersonal skills is by reaching outward — ask others how you are doing! By asking other people for their perceptions of your ideas and actions, you become more aware of what you are doing and how you are acting. To become more in touch with your thoughts and feelings, practice mindfulness and meditation throughout the day.

Multicultural group of coworkers at a table meeting
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Interpersonal vs intrapersonal: which is better? They are both equally as important when it comes to having a better career and more successful relationships.

In order to work well with others, you need interpersonal skills such as listening, empathy, and leadership. Those skills are amplified by greater development of intrapersonal skills such as compassion, self-concept, and visualization.

Use both sets of skills when interviewing, communicating with others professionally and personally, and when coupled with a great education at University of the People, you’ll be sure to go far!