1-Way and 2-Way Communication


The Interpersonal Communication Model. At the beginning of the model, there is a sender. At the end, the receiver. But it’s whats in the middle that counts.


The communication model for two-way and one-way communication is relatively simple. It starts out with an assumption that we have both the sender and a receiver. The sender decides to choose a medium to communicate a message. Typically this medium is either verbal, written, or some type of electronic medium.

Phases of The One and Two-Way Communication Model

There’s a flow of information between the sender and the receiver. This flow represents both of core problem and the core opportunity. First, most senders fail to monitor their own words. And secondly, the sender fails to receive nonverbal feedback coming from the receiver. This leads to all sorts of problems and misunderstandings. 

The Sender

Communication begins with a source, which is a person, group, or organization that has a meaning it attempts to share.  Encoding occurs on the sender side. It’s invisible process in which message is turned from thought to language. 

The Receiver

This is the role that causes you to go into when you listen. On the receiver side, there’s a similar invisible process known as decoding. Decoding is the conversion of language into thought or meaning.

Encoding and Decoding

To transmit meaning, a source must place this meaning into a series of symbols that represent concepts. In the decoding process, symbols are converted into concepts and ideas that mean something to the receiver.

The Medium

A sender must also select and use  some type of communication medium. The three classic communication transmission channels are: written, verbal and electronic.


A receiver is the individual, group, or organization that decodes the message.

Interference (or Noise)

Sometimes referred to as noise, this really are problems with the process or the environment that prevent listening or hearing.


This is the receiver’s response to a message. In interpersonal communication, feedback should flow back to the sender instantaneously

William Hogarth (1697–1764) A Midnight Modern Conversation. You might say, that the conversation quality here is in the dumpster. Clearly, these guys are not following good communication practices

Understanding One-Way Communication

Charles Joshua Chaplin (1825–1891): A Conversation Overheard
Charles Joshua Chaplin (1825–1891): A Conversation Overheard

One-Way Communication Definition

One-way communication is essentially a flawed communication model when compared to the two-way approach. Essentially, what makes this a problem is the reduced availability of feedback, likely leading to misunderstanding. Sometimes this occurs face to face. But it also is occurs in written and electronic communication. 

One-Way Communication Mediums

Written Communication. Anything on paper or email is one-way since all types of written communication either have no feedback or delayed feedback. For example, when sending an e-mail to one of your friends, unless you happen ask him about it later, you really don’t know if it was read, opened, or remembered.

Electronic Media. Today, people tend to interact with electronic tools such as social networks that give limited audience feedback. Oh sure, you can post a comment to your Facebook page which goes out to 300 of your best “friends.” But what does it really mean if five of them indicate they like it and one of them actually comments? Perhaps it means that 295 people did not like it and 299 of them thought was stupid but were too polite to say so.

Voicemail. Might be a little better in terms of understanding; but, it still lacks simultaneous feedback. Still, you can verify that the message was understood if you get a call back.

Effective Communication: The Two-Way Communication Approach

To possess effective two-way communication skills, we must process both verbal and nonverbal information flows at the same time. 


Overview of Two-Way Communication Skills

Full-Duplex ModeFull-Duplex is a term borrowed from communication technology. It basically means that as a sender, you are sending and receiving at the same time. So when you are a speaker, your goal should be to pay attention to both the receivers words and their nonverbal signals. 

The reason we do this is to get more meaning from the others’ nonverbals. For example, for example, doing so allows you to determine whether the other person understands you or not.

If I tell you to, “Meet me at the Hollis,” would you know what I meant? Most of us would say no. However, as a sender with great interpersonal communication skills, you would pay attention to nonverbal’s, and be able to see that the other person was confused over the word “Hollis” and then take steps to clarify.

If you can read face, you have an advantage over those that can’t.  I used to routinely do this every morning with my bosses since I wanted to know what mood they were in. I happened to have very good bosses, but every once in a while, they could bite the neck off an alligator. Should such a rare event occurred, it was best to say hello, beat a hasty retreat, and hide somewhere.

Two-Way Communication Mediums

Telephone. A telephone conversation between two people has a fundamental disadvantage since visual nonverbal feedback is lost. This limitation is likely to be less of a problem in the future due to cameras on computers and mobiles.

Face-To-Face. This is the gold standard for two-way communication. It’s face to fact that is preferred if one has to engage in sensitive conversations.

Situations Requiring Two-Way Communication Skills  

Edmund Leighton (1853–1922) : The secret
Edmund Leighton (1853–1922) : The secret

There are a number of situations in the workplace where it makes sense to fully practice interpersonal skills.

Interviewing. If one is able to pull information from the interviewer’s face and gestures, it is much more likely that you will answer the question in a way that the interviewer feels make sense.

Conversations with the Boss. Another really critical situation is that daily conversation with the boss, whether the one at home or the one at work. Of course when engaging in small talk you do not need to monitor the nonverbals that closely. However if you’re in their office to pitch an idea, you better pay attention to the nonverbals.

Coaching. These techniques are obviously useful when you’re coaching or counseling. In fact, when you have to build a new skills, is very important that one monitor the nonverbal’s for confusion.

2-Way Communication Barriers

Example Miscommunication

You will find that one of the major differences between great communicators and average ones concerns how they process nonverbal and verbal communication. Average communicators pay almost no attention to nonverbal communication cues. In fact, they engage in a particularly weird type of one-way communication called verbal self-talk.

1. Self-Talk 

When someone self-talks, they basically carry on a conversation with themselves. It’s a particularly insidious disease, striking primarily at the intelligentsia, individuals like professors or technologists such as engineers. And of course, don’t forget the doctors. 

2. Ignoring Nonverbal Communication Signals

Another reason this is important, is that meaning is not always conveyed solely in the words. In fact, a great deal of meaning is communicated either in the situational context or in the nonverbal elements associated with the body.

For example, let’s say you are having a meeting with someone for the very first time. As you walk into the conference room, you notice that the person has chosen the head of the table. Contrast this with another person who chooses a chair at the side of the table and indicates that you should talk to them from that position. You should pick up that one person is indicating a conversation of equals, while the other person, is setting up a situation where they clearly want to be the dominant party.


One cannot be a great communicator, unless one is able to process both nonverbal and verbal communication at the same time. However, this is a very difficult thing to do if you have been ignoring nonverbal information for years, reading an article like this one is unlikely to cause one to change. For if one practices something for hundreds of hours wrong, it’s very hard to change it to with the right.

AllBusiness: Ten Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

These kind of articles are quick reads so don’t expect scholar English. For those of you who have never heard of “scholar English” it is a unique form of the language used by professors who write in scholarly journals. Reading articles like this have been known to cure insomnia.

As you scan the article, go through and check off the tips you do well. Also, make a mental note about any that you should do more of. For the most part, these are actually techniques to improve personal and professional relationships. For example, did you remember to send out that thank you note?

Read the Article

Find Out How to Improve Your Communication Skills

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Moss, Stewart, and Tubbs, Sylvia (2006). Human Communication, Principles and Contexts, 11th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall.

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