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Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is the process of exchanging information or feelings between two or more people. It does not matter whether the communication is verbal or non-verbal.

Interpersonal communication is the process of exchanging information or feelings between two or more people. It does not matter whether the communication is verbal or non-verbal.

Communication models

Much research has been done on interpersonal communication. The subject is divided into a number of elements. One of the first models to describe human communication is Aristotle’s communication model. Later, this model was expanded several times. Examples of communication models are:

Interpersonal communication meaning

Most often, interpersonal communication involves the use of the voice, body language, facial expressions or gestures. How good a person is at interpersonal communication is measured by the effectiveness with which a person can communicate messages to other people.

Elements of Interpersonal Communication

The above communication models have a lot in common. The elements of interpersonal communication as described in most theories are:

  • The people who communicate (source, or speaker and receiver)
  • The message
  • Noise
  • Feedback
  • Context
  • Channel or medium

The various elements are briefly explained below.


In interpersonal communication, the source or sender is at the center of the communication process. For communication to take place, at least two people must be involved.

It is tempting to think of communication as a sender-receiver model. The problem with this, however, is that it presents communication as a one-way street, while communication is almost always a complex two-way process.


This refers to the message being conveyed. This can be speech, but also non-verbal messages, such as facial expressions, gestures and forms of body language. Non-verbal communication is often used as a complement to verbal communication because it can obscure more about the emotions underlying the content of a message.


Noise has a special place in communication theory. It refers to anything that can distort a message. As a result, what the recipient receives is different from what is sent. Physical noise includes, for example, background noise or a low-flying helicopter.

Things like unnecessarily complicated language, inattention, disinterest and cultural differences can also be regarded as noise.


Feedback includes anything that the recipient sends back, or returns. As a result, the source knows very accurately whether and how the message was received. Feedback can also be both verbal and non-verbal.

Feedback allows the sender to modify, regulate or repeat the original message. This way communication is improved.


All communication is influenced by the context in which it takes place. The two contexts that are central to this are the situational context and the social context. For example, the situational context includes a space such as the living room or an office. The social context is about the roles, responsibilities and relative status of those involved.


The channel refers to the physical means used to convey the message from one person to another. In a conversation this means is speech and sight, but during a telephone conversation it is only speech.

How do I improve my interpersonal communication skills?
To improve your own interpersonal skills you need three things:

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Feedback

Putting the time and effort into the process is relatively easy. It is often more difficult to obtain good quality and consistent feedback. However, this is the most important ingredient.

Consistent and regular feedback allows you to get answers to the following key questions:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • How do others see you?
  • How do you want others to see you?

Once you understand the difference between these perceptions, you can begin to shape your own development plan for interpersonal communication. Strong and honest feedback helps you to consciously think about the interactions you have with others.

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