Intrapersonal communication is an internal process of communicating with the self. It may be more commonly recognized as the "little voice in your head" or "self-talk." Communication between the individual and others is named interpersonal communication. Self-talk may be a dialogue in which you berate or encourage yourself to act in a certain way; alternatively it may be an imagined conversation with an absent other. Intrapersonal communication may be confused with one's natural thought processes, however the defining trait of self-talk is that it is a conversation in the mind. A simple definition is "talking to oneself." This internal dialogue may be carried out silently or aloud. Talking aloud to oneself may have negative associations and has historically been somewhat of a taboo; a popular misconception is that self-talk is the "first sign of madness." There are different schools of thought about intrapersonal communication, or "inner speech." Some researchers view it as a negative trait which may lead to greater isolation from the outside world. It may be seen as a fruitless activity that goes against the fundamental purpose of speech; that is, to communicate and convey one's thoughts to others. An alternative opinion is that the importance of intrapersonal communication cannot be overestimated; it is viewed as the point at which all communications begin, which leads on to overt communication.
Intrapersonal communication is the form of internal dialogue that exists within each of us and is assumed to be uniquely human. Self-talk may be thought of as a necessary part of the processing of our thoughts and reactions. We are constantly bombarded with information that requires internal processing and the fact that our thoughts are never switched off (the average person is estimated to have between 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day) means that self-talk may be a useful way of dealing with the world around us. The study of intrapersonal communication is less developed than other forms of communication due to the difficulty in understanding and quantifying it, because inner speech by its very nature is internalized. Study in this area relies on self-observation, which also makes research difficult as people may be unaware of their internal dialogue or unwilling to admit that it takes place. Although internal dialogue is not observable as such, measurement of brain activity may make advancements possible in studying it.
One use for intrapersonal communication was put forward by Australian-Georgian academic Joseph Jordania (1954-). He proposed that self-talk may be an innate defence mechanism used to avoid prolonged periods of silence. He observed that throughout evolution, humans have used calls to maintain contact with each other and that in times of danger contact was broken, with silence ensuing in order to warn of impending threat. He believed that since silence has been used as a signal of danger, filling that gap may quash any feelings of fear. Hence intrapersonal communication may be used, consciously or otherwise, as a comforter.
Study of intrapersonal communication has shown that this daily inner dialogue can have both negative and positive effects on the self-esteem and way we conduct ourselves. Positive self-talk is believed to help the individual realize his or her goals or ambitions; there are a growing number of programmes and seminars that address the subject of mood enhancing self-talk. It is thought that this dialogue may be manipulated and used to our benefit and if left unchecked, the overwhelming nature of our thoughts can turn to negativity. Taking steps to actively acknowledge self-talk and change it for the better is thought to increase self-belief and relieve depression. Examples of negative inner speech include common phrases such as "I can't," "I am unable to," "I am not lucky," "I am never in the right place at the right time," and "it is impossible." In these instances, changing vocabulary is believed to help counter harmful inner conversations — for example we can replace: "I can't" with "I can" and "I am not" to "I am." In this way, we may be able to change our belief system; we are reasserting positive self-talk in the same way that mantras are used in Hindu tradition, and are believed to be capable of creating transformation.