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Intrapersonal Communication: How To Make it Your Greatest Ally, Not Your Enemy.

This is going to be a disaster. Remember what happened last time? Why the *%@* did I agree to this?!  What on earth was I thinking?

I was about to give a talk to a group of leaders about stress and mental health in the workplace (the irony of the topic is not lost on me).

I’d been told it would be a small group of 10-15 people.

But when I arrived at the venue I was led into an auditorium that would fit 100+ people and I watched in horror as the room filled up. 😱

Soon, it was standing room only, but this didn’t seem to stop people as more bodies squeezed into the back of the room.

This was the first time I had stood up and spoken to a group of people for over 5 years. It was meant to be an opportunity to re-build my public speaking confidence.

But the Universe was clearly having a laugh that day.

My last attempt at public speaking was my first, and to date, only attempt. 

I had bombed. Horribly. (And I’m not exaggerating).

I was a graduate in my very first job and I had no idea how to write a speech and definitely no idea how to deliver it.

It was something that I’d just never been taught.

And as this was the 90’s and the pre-internet days, I couldn’t just google ‘how to write a speech’.

I’ll spare you the details of that awful day – but the general gist is that I froze and words abandoned me, as I stuttered and desperately tried to work out what to say.

No words came though, and I just stood at the front of the room with my mouth open and eyes wide in panic. The room spun and seemed to close in on me.

All I could see was my manager, looking horrified. Eventually, he said, “Jenny, I think you’d better sit down.’

And that was my first, and only, experience of public speaking. Needless to say, I avoided any requests to speak again for many years.

So, when I was faced with the reality of this new public speaking situation, all the fear, panic and limiting beliefs came flooding back as negative self-talk.

But I knew that critical internal chatter was only making things 100 times worse…

Intrapersonal communication is a fundamental but often overlooked aspect of our daily lives. It refers to the conversations you have with yourself – your thoughts, reflections and internal dialogue that shape your understanding of the world and your place within it.

Your intrapersonal communication can be a huge asset – supporting, guiding and cheering you on to achieve your goals and aspirations. Or it can be your greatest enemy – hindering, undermining and sabotaging you at every turn. 

The good news is that intrapersonal communication is a skill. And just like any other skill, it can be learnt, honed and developed over time.

So today, I’ll introduce you to the different aspects of intrapersonal communication. And most importantly, I’ll share some practical and easy to implement ideas for improving your intrapersonal communication.

Before we dive in though, let’s take a moment to define our terms. What does intrapersonal communication mean?

Definition of Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication is any communication you have with yourself, which you do not intend to be shared or consumed by any other external being.

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Intrapersonal Communication Definition

Other Names for Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication has many different names. You might hear it called:

>> Self talk

>> Inner dialogue

>> Internal monologue

>> Internal chatter

>> Inner speech

>> Inner experience

>> Internal discourse

>> Self communication

>> Internal communication

>> Personal reflection

It’s mostly the voice inside your head, but it can also be the pictures, images and visualisations you have too.

No matter what you call it, this inner voice can often be negative and critical. In fact it can be pretty brutal! And it can sabotage your success and stop you from realising your true potential.

If this sounds familiar, be sure to save your seat for my free masterclass, How to Get Unstuck: The 3 Secret Saboteurs that Keep You Stuck and Stop You From Realizing Your Full Potential.

You’ll learn a lot more about that negative inner voice, and most importantly, what to do about it!

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Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Communication

And let’s not confuse intrapersonal communication with interpersonal communication.

Whereas intrapersonal communication is the communication you have with yourself, interpersonal communication is the exchange of information, ideas and feelings between two or more people.

This type of communication can be verbal or non-verbal and include speaking, listening and writing.

It’s the things you probably think of as ‘communication’ – the conversations, phone calls, emails and social media interactions you have with others.

Key Characteristics of Interpersonal Communication

>> Interaction: It involves direct interaction between people.

>> Feedback: Participants can typically provide feedback to each other.

>> Social Context: It occurs within a social context, influenced by cultural norms, relationships, and social roles.

>>Purpose: Often aims to build relationships, resolve conflicts, share information, or collaborate on tasks.

Differences between Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Communication

The main difference between the two lies in their nature and purpose:

>> Nature: Interpersonal communication involves multiple individuals, while intrapersonal communication is solely within the individual.

>> Purpose: Interpersonal communication aims to exchange information and build relationships, whereas intrapersonal communication focuses on self-understanding and personal development.

>> Context: Interpersonal communication occurs in a social context, while intrapersonal communication is a solitary process.

Understanding both types of communication is essential for effective personal and professional interactions.

While interpersonal skills help you connect with others, intrapersonal skills enables you to understand and manage yourself better.

“Self-talk is the most powerful form of communication because it either empowers you or it defeats you.”

Wright Thurston

Interpersonal Communication

The 3 Types of Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication can be categorized into three main types: self-concept, perception and expectation:


1.  Self-Concept (Inward Facing): Self-concept refers to the understanding and evaluation of oneself.

This inward-facing communication involves the internal dialogue that shapes how you see yourself and includes your beliefs, values, attitudes and self-esteem.

Self-concept is developed through personal experiences, social interactions, and reflections on your own behavior and characteristics, and it’s crucial for forming a stable identity and for personal development.


2.  Perception (Outward Facing): Perception involves the processes by which you interpret and make sense of the external world.

This outward-facing type of intrapersonal communication entails the selection, organization and interpretation of sensory information.

Perception is subjective and influenced by your self-concept, past experiences, expectations and cultural background. It determines how you understand your environment and the people around you.

Effective perception is essential for making informed decisions and for interacting appropriately within various social contexts.


3.  Expectation (Future Facing): Expectation involves the anticipation and projection of future events and outcomes.

This future-facing intrapersonal communication encompasses your hopes, fears and predictions about what may happen. Expectations are formed based on past experiences, current perceptions and personal goals.

They play a critical role in motivation and planning, influencing how you set objectives and prepare for upcoming challenges.

Positive expectations can drive proactive behavior and resilience, while negative expectations may lead to anxiety and avoidance behaviors.

Intrapersonal Communication

Examples of Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication can take many diverse forms, though it typically falls into one of three groups: thinking, vocal or written.

1.  Thinking

Thinking is the most common and fundamental form of intrapersonal communication. It includes:

>> Self-Reflection: Contemplating past experiences and their impacts.

>> Problem-Solving: Internally working through challenges or puzzles.

>> Decision-Making: Weighing options and considering potential outcomes.

>> Emotional Processing: Identifying and understanding your feelings and reactions to events.

>>Daydreaming: Imagining scenarios or fantasizing about the future.

>> Visualization: Mentally rehearsing or imagining successful outcomes, such as visualizing a successful performance before an event.

>> Mindfulness: Practicing awareness and focus on the present moment, observing thoughts and sensations without judgment.

2.  Vocal

Vocal intrapersonal communication involves talking to yourself, either silently or aloud. Examples include:

>> Self-Talk: Encouraging or reprimanding yourself.

>> Practice Speech: Rehearsing what to say in an upcoming conversation or presentation.

>>Verbal Affirmations: Using positive statements to reinforce self-belief and motivation.

>> Reading Aloud: Reading material out loud to yourself to enhance understanding or memory.

3.  Written

Written intrapersonal communication involves expressing your thoughts and feelings in written form. Examples include:

>> Journaling: Writing about daily experiences, emotions and reflections to gain insight and clarity.

>> Lists and Plans: Creating to-do lists, setting goals, and planning activities to organize thoughts and actions.

>> Letters to Self: Composing letters to yourself to articulate emotions and aspirations.

>> Creative Writing: Crafting stories, poems or other creative pieces as a form of self-expression and exploration of inner thoughts.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”

William Wordsworth

Why Intrapersonal Communication is Important

So, now you’ve got a good idea of what intrapersonal communication is and all the ways it can play out, let’s address the big question of why any of this matters:


>> Self-Awareness: Intrapersonal communication fosters self-awareness, helping you understand your thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Through self-reflection and mindfulness, you can identify your strengths and development areas, leading to better self-knowledge and personal growth, (Morin, 1993)

>> Emotional Regulation: By engaging in intrapersonal communication, you can process and manage your emotions more effectively.

Recognizing and understanding your feelings through self-talk and emotional processing can reduce stress, anxiety and other negative emotions, promoting mental well-being, (Kross et al, 2014).

>> Decision-Making: Effective intrapersonal communication aids in decision-making.

By weighing options, considering potential outcomes, and reflecting on past experiences, you can make more informed and thoughtful decisions. This internal dialogue helps clarify values and priorities, leading to better choices.

>> Goal Setting and Motivation: Intrapersonal communication is essential for setting and achieving goals. Visualizing success, creating written plans, and using verbal affirmations can enhance your motivation and focus.

Not just for use in sports, this internal dialogue helps you stay committed to your objectives and persist through challenges, (Tod et al. 2011)

>> Problem-Solving and Creativity: Engaging in intrapersonal communication can enhance problem-solving skills and creativity.

By thinking through problems, brainstorming solutions, and exploring different perspectives, you can develop innovative ideas and effective strategies to address challenges.

>> Self-Concept and Identity: Intrapersonal communication shapes your self-concept and identity.

Through continuous internal dialogue, you construct and reinforce your sense of self, including your beliefs, values and self-esteem. This self-concept influences how you interact with others and navigate various social contexts.

>> Coping Mechanisms: Intrapersonal communication provides essential coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s challenges.

Techniques such as mindfulness, journaling, and self-talk help you to process difficult experiences, build resilience, and maintain a positive outlook.

>> Interpersonal Relationships: Understanding yourself through intrapersonal communication enhances interpersonal relationships.

When you’re aware of your own emotions, needs, and boundaries, you can communicate more effectively with others, leading to healthier and more meaningful connections.

Intrapersonal Communication

How Intrapersonal Communication can Help or Hinder You

Your intrapersonal communication can significantly impact your success, satisfaction and overall well-being.

And the nature of this internal dialogue -whether it’s positive or negative – can lead to vastly different outcomes.

Benefits of Positive Intrapersonal Communication

>> Enhanced Self-Esteem: Positive self-talk can bolster your self-esteem and confidence. When you reinforce your strengths and accomplishments, you develop a healthier self-image and greater self-worth.

>> Improved Mental Health: Engaging in supportive and encouraging internal dialogue helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Positive intrapersonal communication promotes a more optimistic outlook, fostering emotional resilience and well-being.

>> Effective Problem Solving: A constructive internal dialogue encourages creative thinking and effective problem-solving. By maintaining a positive mindset, you’re more likely to approach challenges with a solution-oriented attitude.

>> Motivation and Goal Achievement: Positive intrapersonal communication enhances motivation and perseverance. Visualizing success, setting clear goals, and using self-encouragement can drive you to achieve your objectives and overcome obstacles.

>> Better Relationships: People who practice positive self-talk are often more empathetic and understanding in their interactions with others. This can lead to healthier and more supportive relationships, as you project a positive and confident demeanor.

>> Greater Emotional Regulation: Positive intrapersonal communication helps you to manage your emotions effectively. Recognizing and affirming your feelings can lead to healthier emotional responses and improved coping strategies.

Risks of Negative Intrapersonal Communication

>> Lower Self-Esteem: Negative self-talk can erode self-esteem and self-confidence. Constantly criticizing yourself and focusing on perceived failures can lead to a poor self-image and feelings of inadequacy.

>> Mental Health Issues: Engaging in negative intrapersonal communication is associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Persistent negative thoughts can create a cycle of emotional distress and mental health challenges.

>> Ineffective Problem-Solving: A negative internal dialogue can hinder problem-solving abilities. When you focus on obstacles and doubts, you’re less likely to think creatively or find effective solutions to your.

>> Lack of Motivation: Negative self-talk can sap motivation and lead to procrastination or avoidance behaviors. Doubting your abilities and expecting failure can prevent you from pursuing your goals and achieving success.

>> Strained Relationships: People who engage in negative self-talk may struggle with interpersonal relationships. Their negative outlook can manifest as insecurity, defensiveness, or pessimism, which can strain interactions with others.

>> Poor Emotional Regulation: Negative intrapersonal communication can lead to difficulties in managing emotions. Focusing on negative feelings and experiences can intensify emotional reactions and make it harder for you to cope with stress and adversity.

How to Improve Intrapersonal Communication

So, you can see that cultivating a positive internal dialogue is crucial for your overall well-being and personal growth.

But, unfortunately, in a recent poll I did on LinkedIn, the majority of respondents said their self-talk is typically negative and critical:

Inner Self-Talk_LinkedIn Poll

So, let’s talk about how to improve your intrapersonal communication. Here’s some easy ways to get started:

Tip#1: Tune In

Start by simply tuning in. Pay close attention to your internal dialogue and become aware of your thoughts and feelings – without judgment.

This will enhance your self-awareness and help identify negative thought patterns that may need addressing.

Set aside time each day to tune in to your inner voice.

Notice what you are thinking and feeling in different situations. Reflect on these thoughts to understand their impact on your emotions and behavior.

Tip#2: Journaling

The activity of writing down your thoughts, feelings and experiences can provide great insight and clarity.

Journaling provides a space for self-reflection, helping you to process emotions and understand patterns in your thinking and behavior.

Keep a daily journal where you document your inner dialogue, emotional responses, and reflections on events. This can include free writing, prompted entries or structured formats like gratitude journals.

Tip#3: Self-Talk (AKA Pep Talk)

Engaging in a positive and encouraging internal dialogue or ‘pep talk’ will boost your self-confidence and motivation when you’re faced with challenging situations.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, consciously replace negative self-talk with affirmations and motivational statements. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do this,” tell yourself, “I’m capable and able to handle this.”

It’s also helpful to remind yourself of the times when you’ve been successful in the past – “I’ve done this before, and I can do it again.”

You’ll need to be very conscious and intentional about doing this – it probably won’t naturally happen!

“Talk to yourself as you would to someone you love”

Brene Brown

Tip#4: Daydreaming

I used to reprimand myself for daydreaming and letting my mind wander as I thought it was wasting time and not being productive.

But after reading ‘Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention’ by Johann Hari I learnt that daydreaming is actually a powerful way to improve creativity and problem solving. I also find it’s a great source of inspiration and relaxation too.

Daydreaming is a good thing – your brain needs it!

So, next time your mind naturally wanders – let it.

Allow your mind to explore different possibilities and creative ideas and solutions. When given the time to explore and ponder, you might be surprised at the creative solutions that just pop into your head!


Tip#5: Visualization

Visualisation is mentally rehearsing and imagining successful outcomes or desired situations.

Regularly practice visualizing your goals and desired outcomes in vivid detail. Imagine the steps you will take, and the positive emotions associated with achieving your objectives.

This gets easier the more you do it …

Final Thoughts: Intrapersonal Communication

Intrapersonal communication, or the conversations you have with yourself, can significantly influence your life – for good or for bad.

It can be your greatest ally or your greatest enemy.

As illustrated by my own harrowing experience of public speaking, 😱 negative self-talk can undermine your confidence and abilities, while positive self-talk can uplift and empower you.

If you’d like to learn more about over-coming your negative self-talk, be sure to save your seat at my free masterclass, How to Get Unstuck: The 3 Secret Saboteurs that Keep You Stuck and Stop You From Realizing Your Full Potential.

Let’s make your intrapersonal communication your greatest ally rather than your enemy!


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I'm Jenny Ostick

As an Organizational Psychologist and Master Coach I’m on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders. My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding them back, so they can become the exceptional leader they’re capable of being.


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I'm Jenny Ostick.

As an Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Coach I'm on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders.

I've spent the last 20 years working with leaders across the globe and have had the privilege of working with 1000+ leaders during this time.

I've worked with the likes of Deloitte, Virgin, Nestle and Coca-Cola to name just a few, and this has provided me with a unique insight into the difficulties that leaders face and the real things they struggle with.

My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding you back, so you can become the exceptional leader you're capable of being.

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