11 julio, 2024

Interpersonal communication: characteristics, barriers, types, examples

The interpersonal communication It is a process by which two or more people exchange information, meanings, emotions or ideas between them. This exchange can be done both verbally and non-verbally, and it is generally considered that it has to be carried out in person.

The interpersonal communication process includes all kinds of processes and elements, and it is not limited only to what is said, but also has to do with how it is said, the context, and other elements that are not so easy to detect with the naked eye. . In fact, most interpersonal communication is considered to be non-verbal.

Contrary to what it might seem at first, interpersonal communication is a process that occurs constantly, even if there is no conscious exchange of information on the part of those involved. Experts consider that as soon as we are in the presence of another individual, we begin to communicate indirectly with him.

Among the elements included in the interpersonal communication process are posture, facial expression, movements, tone of voice and proxemia (the distance between the interlocutors). Thanks to all these factors we can draw conclusions about the personality, emotional state or intentions of the other person.


Features of the interpersonal communication

– Occurs all the time

One of the most important concepts to understand about interpersonal communication is that whenever more than one individual is present, this process is taking place. This is so even if neither party is aware of what is happening.

Human beings are extremely social animals. Our brain is programmed to interpret all the information that comes to us from our environment related to other people, in such a way that we can predict their behavior and understand the best way to act in each situation.

– Has a strong non-verbal component

Within social psychology, it was traditionally considered that between 80 and 90% of the information exchanged in interpersonal communication is done non-verbally, through gestures, expressions, postures and tones of voice.

Although today these numbers are in doubt, the most accepted theory continues to be that most communication does not have to do with speech.

Modern neuroimaging studies have allowed us to discover that a large part of our brain is specialized in detecting and interpreting data from non-verbal language, proxemics, voice tonality or its inflections.

– Includes all the elements of traditional communication

In the study of communication, this phenomenon is normally considered to include a series of fundamental elements, without which it cannot directly occur. These elements are the following:

– Message. This is information that is transmitted, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

– Issuer. It is the person who transmits the message.

– Receiver. Who receives the information transmitted by the issuer.

– Channel. The channel is the means by which the message is transmitted. In interpersonal communication, the channel is normally speech, in addition to the visual and auditory elements detected by the receiver.

– Code. It is the language in which the message is expressed. In the case of interpersonal communication it can involve elements such as spoken languages, but also signs and other similar elements.

– Context. Communication always occurs in a certain context, and this influences all other elements of it. In the case of interpersonal communication, the most important context is the type of relationship between the interlocutors.

– Produces effects on all participants

One of the most important characteristics of interpersonal communication is that it always causes an effect on both the sender and the receiver. People are prepared to respond to other individuals whenever they are present, and this type of communication affects our emotions, thoughts, and way of acting.

On the other hand, the effect of interpersonal communication is reciprocal, in such a way that the sender has influence over the receiver and vice versa. Thus, this phenomenon is one of the pillars of human relationships, and one of those that most affect us emotionally, cognitively, and personally.


Among the elements of communication, one of the most important is the presence of distortions or barriers in the process. These phenomena hinder the transmission of information between the parties involved, and may prevent the process from being carried out in some cases.

Interpersonal communication is one of the most complex types out there, so there are many different barriers that can affect the process. Most of them are related to the channel, the code or the message itself. Next we will see some of the most common.

– Barriers in the channel

Channel barriers usually have to do with physical impediments that prevent the message from being transmitted correctly. In interpersonal communication, for example, the presence of a lot of environmental noise can make it much more difficult to hear what the interlocutor is saying, in such a way that part of the information is lost.

In the case of online interpersonal communication, many other types of barriers can exist in the channel. Among the most common we find network failures in the case of the interlocutors communicating over the Internet, or the crash of the application through which the information is being transmitted.

– Barriers in the code

Barriers in the code are among those that most affect the transmission of information. The most common is the use of different languages ​​by the interlocutors, since not sharing a language makes it much more difficult for two people to communicate correctly.

However, this problem is not the only one that can act as a barrier in the code. For example, some people may have great difficulty reading the body or emotional language of other individuals, so they do not share the code with their interlocutors and miss much of the information they receive.

– Barriers in the message

Finally, the barriers in the message are those that directly affect the information that is being transmitted. In the case of interpersonal communication, they generally have to do with spoken expression, but as in the previous case, they can also be related to other elements such as body language.

Types interpersonal communication

Within interpersonal communication there are mainly three types: verbal, non-verbal and virtual. Next we will study what each of them consists of.

– Verbal communication

Verbal communication consists of the transmission of information through the use of spoken or, sometimes, written language. Through it, all kinds of messages can be sent, although its main function is to transmit pure data between several people.

It is estimated that in a normal context of communication, the verbal part only forms approximately 7% of all the information that is transmitted between the receiver and the sender. However, even so, it is a fundamental element to be able to generate understandable messages that allow us to function in society.

– Non-verbal communication

The other side of the coin is non-verbal communication. This includes a large number of different elements, such as the tonality of the voice, facial gestures, body language, proxemics or physical contact. Many experts believe that the vast majority of communication occurs at this level, often subconsciously.

Nonverbal communication is mainly used to convey information about the state and emotions of the interlocutor. The receiver can interpret and predict their behavior using this type of communication, so it is very useful in almost any context.

– virtual communication

The last type of interpersonal communication that exists is virtual, that is, one that does not occur face to face but through the use of some type of information technology. Although some experts consider that it cannot be classified as part of this phenomenon, the truth is that it is increasingly common to use this method of information exchange as the main tool.


Human beings are extremely social animals. Due to this, interpersonal communication is one of the most important tools in our daily life, especially the ability to speak.

Through interpersonal communication we are able to influence our environment, predict the behavior of other people and understand what is happening around us. Therefore, much of our time is devoted to using this tool and perfecting our use of it.


As we have already seen, interpersonal communication occurs in many different ways and at many different levels. Thus, a conversation within a group can be a good example of this phenomenon, but also a simple look, a text message, or even a hug or a caress between people who are closely related.


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“Interpersonal communication”in: Communication Theory. Retrieved on: March 08, 2020 from Communication Theory: communicationtheory.org.
«Interpersonal communication» in: Wikipedia. Retrieved on: March 08, 2020 from Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org.

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