Interpersonal vs Intrapersonal – Difference Between Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Communication

Interpersonal vs Intrapersonal – Difference Between Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Communication

The difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal forms of dialogue is that interpersonal revolves purely around speaking to others either verbally or through physical interaction (body language), but intrapersonal communication is only ever held with a singular individual when they are speaking to themselves either inwardly or out loud.

Everybody alive is inevitably at some stage going to engage in some form of communication. It is a standard part of living and functioning. Though there are many different forms of communication, they are all conveyed either physically, verbally, or internally.

What they all have in common is that they revolve around two key components known as interpersonal and intrapersonal dialogue. These components serve as parameters of sorts that dictate the circumstances that we are communicating within.

We are going to explain throughout this article what they both individually mean and endeavour to answer the question, what is the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal? Then, you can comfortably answer it either for work or school purposes or simply because you are looking to learn more about these language forms for your own personal benefit.

Just as with a lot of other words in English, many tend to juggle intrapersonal vs interpersonal around interchangeably as part of the same sentences, often using them incorrectly without realizing it. They definitely sound quite similar when they are spoken out loud. They even look similar on paper, but in actual fact, they are very different from one another.

Using one in a certain context versus the other could lead to you explaining something in a completely inaccurate manner. As such, let’s dive further into this comparison by reviewing their exact definitions to get a better idea.

Definition of Interpersonal – What Does Interpersonal Mean?

The definition of interpersonal is “a word that directly relates to relationships or communication between people.”

It can also typically be defined or summarized as a form of dialogue “between” two or more persons that can be either verbal or non-verbal (emphasis on the word “between”).

Due to the fact that another person is involved, this means that only physical and verbal forms of communication are possible when conversing in this fashion. Inward communication (thinking or speaking to oneself internally) is not possible as the other people involved in the process would not be able to understand or detect this.

Through communicating with another person, you are highlighting the focal difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal communication because the inclusion of other parties by default means that we are stepping into extrovert territory and communicating outwardly as opposed to within ourselves when we do something in an introverted fashion.

Interpersonal communication is something most of us do every day on an almost constant basis depending on the kind of lives we lead, whether it is through talking to someone face to face or on the phone. It is a two-way system where you give and also receive. It is a crucial part of daily survival and functionality because without communication with others, it would be almost impossible to perform all of the vital tasks needed for day-to-day sustenance especially in urban and suburban areas.

It is this vital dialogue interplay between one person and another or several other people that serves as one way of showing the difference between interpersonal vs intrapersonal. With intrapersonal communication, you are very restricted in terms of the scope for being able to deliver your dialogue. As we previously mentioned, inward communication does not qualify as interpersonal communication.

There are some distinct elements that impact inter communication that do not generally play a part in intra dialogue. For instance, in the case of face-to-face verbal contact, the tone of your voice, the expression on your face, your gestures, and general body language will have a significant impression on the other person.

When conversing with yourself, whether it is mentally or out loud, these additional elements would typically not come into play as you are not trying to help another person understand a message or information that you are trying to convey through the use of other forms of assistive communication.

The use of tonality and body language is actually something that we employ almost exclusively for the benefit of others. Hence, this is why these language techniques are only seen when conversing interpersonally.

Definition of Intrapersonal – What Does Intrapersonal Mean?

The definition of intrapersonal is “something that takes place or exists solely within the mind of one individual.”

Another way to define it is to say that it is a kind of interaction that only exists “within” oneself (emphasis on the word “within”). It is quite literally impossible to interact introvertedly with another person because that would require you to communicate in an exterior fashion and would therefore take you away from the internal framework that defines introversion and intrapersonal dialogue.

Naturally, when you are conversing inwardly like this, you employ tactics like thinking, feeling, understanding, contemplating, etc. That alone is a major difference between intrapersonal and interpersonal.

With interpersonal dialogue, you typically do not have the time to think or contemplate deeply while conversing, whereas intrapersonal communication provides a perfect platform for being able to look inward and explore subjects in great depth.

We can actually identify a lot of the hallmarks of intrapersonal communication by asking the simple question, how do you talk to yourself? Most of the time, it is unlikely that you will shout out loud or express using your body extensively while trying to relate with yourself.

This is because you can hear yourself without your ears. Your mind, your head, and your heart are all ways you can hear your thoughts without necessarily communicating in an extroverted fashion. The fact that you are not communicating with anyone else is precisely what underpins the intrapersonal vs interpersonal comparison. Because you are alone, it is intrapersonal.

There are of course instances where intrapersonal communication may involve additional communicative elements like expressive body language or alterations in your tone of voice while speaking out loud. Typically, these scenarios would involve us role playing or practicing for instances where we will need to employ interpersonal communication skills. A great example would be practicing a speech or reading a poem out loud or perhaps even making a voice recording.

In summary, after reading the two separate definitions, it is easy to see how interpersonal and intrapersonal get confused with one another because they sound similar, but it is also clear that they carry very different meanings.

What Is the Main Difference Between Intrapersonal vs Interpersonal Communication?

Below is a comparison table that shows the diagrammatic representation of the difference between interpersonal and intrapersonal communication and summarizes interpersonal vs intrapersonal effectively.

Basis of ComparisonInterpersonalIntrapersonal
Definition Is defined as association “between” two or more persons which can be either verbal or non-verbalIs defined as the communication “within” oneself
Prefix meaningBetween – among two or more personsWithin – inside just one person
IrreversibleOnce the word is out, it is irreversibleThe word may never come out, so it can be reversed
ComplexityWords may have different meanings for both partiesThe meaning is only what you think it to be
Parties involvedTwo or more parties are involvedJust one party is involved

To help separate interpersonal vs intrapersonal further, we will now provide you with a FAQ that showcases the most popular questions asked about the difference between intrapersonal and interpersonal communication.

Intrapersonal vs Interpersonal Difference – FAQ

Here are the most popular questions asked about the comparison between these two forms of communication.

What are the different interpersonal vs intrapersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills rely on your ability to be able to effectively communicate with other people and largely revolve around effective body language, eye contact, and voice pitching and tonality.

Intrapersonal skills largely revolve around an individual’s ability to reflect inwardly and assess situations and the world around them in their own mind, without communicating with others.

Who are you communicating with when you use interpersonal and intrapersonal communication? Is it yourself or other people?

The primary variations between intra vs interpersonal dialogues is that when you are communicating using the former, you are only communicating inwardly with yourself. When using the latter, you are instead verbally or physically expressing yourself outwardly to somebody else.

It is the outward vs inward contrast that lies firmly at the heart of the varied natures of these two forms of communication.

What do “intra” and “inter” mean in intrapersonal and interpersonal communication?

The word intra means “within” whereas the word inter means “between” or “among.” This relates closely to the two dialogue forms as the former type revolves around communication occurring only within oneself, whereas the other type revolves around communication that occurs with or among others.

So What Is Intrapersonal vs Interpersonal? – Conclusion

In summary, there are certainly several differences between these terms, but it is worth remembering that you quite literally cannot have one without the other.

This is because inter is actually a natural evolution from intra. Intrapersonal dialogue is the natural precursor to interpersonal dialogue. As we develop for instance, we converse with ourselves introvertedly by thinking about sounds and recognizing objects before we are then able to communicate extrovertedly and interpersonally with other people. Intravenous processes are the foundation that all aspects of extraversion are built upon.

Intrapersonal is what you think within you, consciously or unconsciously, that forms the basis of how you relate with another person. That is how we can effectively summarize the meaning of intrapersonal communication.