Communication in Different Settings

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  • 0:00 Communication
  • 0:55 Interpersonal Communication
  • 2:30 Mass Communication
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Humans are social creatures and we spend a lot of time communicating with one another. In this lesson, we'll look at the two major types of communication and examine how setting can influence each type of communication.


Jolie has noticed something interesting. When she's talking to her grandmother, she uses certain types of language. When she's talking to her best friend, she uses a completely different vocabulary. And when she's giving a presentation to her class, she talks in a different way than she does with either her grandmother or her best friend.

Communication is the transmission of a message from one person to one or more other people. It involves talking and non-verbal communication, like body language and written messages.

As Jolie has noticed, communication can vary depending on the context. The audience and setting can change the way a person interacts with others. To help Jolie understand how setting can change communication, let's look at the two main types of communication, interpersonal and mass, and how each can vary according to setting.

Interpersonal Communication

When Jolie has good news to tell her grandmother, she calls her up and says, 'Gran, I have delightful news to share with you.' When she has good news to share with her best friend, though, she's likely to say, 'Check it out: I got great news for you.'

Interpersonal communication involves communication between a small number of people, usually two or three. When Jolie is talking to her grandmother or when she's talking to her best friend, she is engaging in interpersonal communication.

As Jolie has already noticed, who she's talking to can change the way she talks. But setting, too, can have an influence on how she communicates. Consider this: Jolie wants to tell her best friend that she's discovered her boyfriend cheating.

If Jolie and her best friend are hanging out in the park, Jolie might use all sorts of curse words and call her boyfriend every name in the book. After all, she's pretty angry and she's talking to her best friend.

But what if Jolie and her best friend are in school, right in front of a teacher? Jolie is likely to say something like, 'That jerk is cheating on me! Can you believe it?' No curse words and the only name she calls him is a jerk.

Still, if Jolie and her best friend were in school, especially if they were in the hallway between classes or out on the soccer field, she might raise her voice in frustration. But what if Jolie was telling her best friend this in a church? She might still use the same phrasing, 'That jerk is cheating on me!' But now, she might keep her voice nice and low, instead of shouting.

In this way, both the people involved in interpersonal communication and the setting can influence communication.

Mass Communication

Jolie, like many of us, is engaged in interpersonal communication on a regular basis. She's always talking or communicating with people, whether that's telling her best friend that her boyfriend cheated on her or flipping her boyfriend the bird from across the parking lot of the school. She's communicating with others all the time.

But she's also a member of a debate team, and so she engages in mass communication, or communication from one person to a large number of people. This can be in person or on social media.

With mass communication, too, setting can change the way people communicate. Take Jolie: she's passionate about saving the planet through recycling. But her school does not have a recycling program and she wants to change that.

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