Social Sciences

Start Free Trial

What are the advantages and disadvantages of interpersonal communication?

Quick answer:

The advantages of interpersonal communication include being able to share ones thoughts and feelings, as well as ideas and information. This is invaluable in every context, from the family to the workplace. Disadvantages of interpersonal communication include the spread of lies and misinformation, as well as sharing bad ideas.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interpersonal communication makes the world go round. Every conversation, every text message, and every email that we send is an example of interpersonal communication. Interpersonal communication is defined as the exchange of thoughts, feelings, ideas, or information. This can be done verbally or via an electronic medium.

To mention the advantages first, let's consider the context of a family. Without interpersonal communication, no one would know what anyone else wanted to do or how they were feeling. In a business context, no discussions, debates, or training could take place without interpersonal communication. A world without interpersonal communication would be a world in which nothing got achieved. We live in a world in which even machines are trying to personalize communication and experiences.

In a nutshell, interpersonal communication enables you to build relationships with others. Those who are gifted at interpersonal communication will have various advantages, such as being able to persuade people.

The idea of persuasion leads to the second part of your question: the disadvantages of interpersonal communication. Using their powers of persuasion, people can impart evil ideas. The first example that comes to mind is a pedophile using interpersonal communication to groom a victim. Lies are also told through the medium of interpersonal communication, and manipulation is carried out this way as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interpersonal communication is the exchange of information between people. This is not just limited to verbal communication but instead includes body language and facial expressions as well as textual communications and other interactions that are mediated by technology in some way. The advantages of interpersonal communication are immense.

Interactions are predicated on the exchange of information over time, and so interpersonal communication facilitates many facets of human behavior, and all facets of human social behavior. Unfortunately, not all of this behavior is pleasant to experience, and so interpersonal communication's downsides emerge when coercive, violent, or harmful means are used to affect how information passes between two people.

This fact is essential to understanding the ways that interfering with someone's idea of truth through violent or coercive interpersonal communication is such a traumatizing form of abuse and highlights how bad the downsides of interpersonal communication can be.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Textbook writers define "interpersonal communication" as "the nonverbal interaction between two or more interdependent people" (see citation below).

The term "interdependent" is important because social scientists want to distinguish interpersonal communication from impersonal communication.

Consider, for example, this scenario: You make a purchase at a supermarket and interact with the clerk in a rote, automatic way -- treating her as an "it" instead of as a "you." Is that interpersonal communication? Not according to scholars like Martin Buber. It's impersonal, so it doesn't count.

Interpersonal communication includes face-to-face communication, but it can also include other forms of communication, like instant messaging, exchanging email messages, and "talking" via online chat rooms. What's important is that each communicator responds to the other as a "you," not as an "it."

Interpersonal communication can serve many advantageous purposes. It allows us to influence the behavior, attitudes, and opinions of others. It allows for more effective, efficient cooperation, and can help us forge or maintain a social bond. It can help us learn, and relate to the problems or situations that other individuals face. Interpersonal information can help us negotiate, ask for help, offer aid, ask forgiveness, apologize, or achieve reconciliation. We may also use interpersonal communication in order to relax and play.

When psychologists and other social scientists talk about the disadvantages of interpersonal communication, they are usually thinking in terms of the harm that can arise from conflict and emotional turmoil.

For instance, in the academic volume, The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication, researchers talk about the ways that interpersonal communication can lead to negative outcomes. These range from bad moods to actual harm (psychological or physical). Examples include:

  • the communication of complaints and criticism
  • bullying
  • teasing
  • the communication of threats
  • domestic abuse


The definition and clarifications about face-to-face and other forms of interpersonal communication are from:

Beebe et al. 2010. Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others, Fifth Canadian edition. Pearson. (Chapter 1, p. 4).

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interpersonal communication is the face-to-face exchange of thoughts and feelings between people.  This form of communication is advantageous to building strong relationships with others.  Interpersonal communication allows others to feel close and connected.  When speaking face-to-face, you are able to observe the other person’s body language and tone of voice, both valuable clues to the true meaning of the message.  Interpersonal communication is the desired method to discuss issues that are highly sensitive. 

On the other hand, interpersonal communication takes time, something that most people have little of in this day and age.  It is quicker to send a text or email if you only need to share basic information that is impersonal in nature.  Interpersonal communication is also limited by geography.  It is not always feasible to speak face-to-face with everyone you need to communication with during the day.  Although once the most desired method of communication, interpersonal communication is being used less frequently due to the technology now available to everyone. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial