Information: knowledge or facts communicated about a particular subject or event, etc. (Oxford) Interpersonal communication is systemic. Situation, time, people, culture, and personal histories interact to affect meanings. (Wood, 20)

Includes conventional messages (that) communicate to emphasize the achievement of instrumental goals in a situation; that is, focus narrowly on effectiveness—for example, saying, “You’re late again today and were late twice last week. You know the rules about tardiness.” (McCornack, 260)


Data: raw facts that describe the characteristics of an event. (Baltzan, 331) Facts, especially numerical facts, collected together for reference or information. The quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by computers, and which may be stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals. (Oxford)

Data Graphics: visual display of measured quantities by means of the combined use of points, lines, a coordinate system, numbers, symbols, words, shading, and color. The use of abstract, non-representational pictures to show numbers. At their best, graphics are instruments for reasoning about quantitative information. Often the most effective way to describe, explore, and summarize "data." (Tufte, Introduction) Also referred to as ‘information graphics.’

Defensive Messages incompetent responses to suggestions, criticism, or perceived slights. For instance, when Stacy asks Lena to slow down her driving, Lena snaps back, “I’m not going that fast. If you don’t like the way I drive, ride with someone else.” (McCornack, 274)

Expressive Messages: verbal communication whose purpose is to express emotions and build relationships. (Floyd, G2) Disclosing messages that convey what you think and feel so others know exactly what you think and feel, even when the message would be inappropriate or ineffective—for example, calmly saying, “I’m angry because you’re late again,” or snarling, “You’re late again and I’m fed up with your whiney excuses.” (McCornack, 259)

Mixed Messages: verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey contradictory meanings, such as saying, “I’m so happy for you,” in a sarcastic tone of voice. (McCornack, 219)

Rhetorical Messages: responses intended to successfully blend all three ingredients of competent communication: appropriateness, effectiveness, and ethics. For example—saying, “I’m sorry you’ve been having trouble arriving on time. Let’s figure out what we can do so that this doesn’t happen again.” (McCornack, 260)

Secret(s): a fact, matter, action, etc., which is kept private or is shared only with those concerned; something that cannot be disclosed with a breach of confidence or violation of security. (Oxford) The main thing known about secrets is that keeping them is unhealthy for the brain. (Can be) the result of struggle between competing parties in the brain. One part of the brain wants to reveal something, and another part does not want to. (Eagleman, 145) The main reason not to reveal a secret is aversion to the long-term consequences. A friend might think ill of you, or a lover might be hurt, or a community might ostracize you. People are more likely to tell their secrets to total strangers. With someone they don’t know, the neural conflict can be dissipated with none of the costs. ‘Venting’ a secret is usually done for its own sake, not as an invitation for advice.  (Eagleman, 146)

Dirty Secrets: truthful but destructive messages used deliberately to hurt someone during a conflict. For example, Judith tells her sister, “That boy you like—Craig? I heard him tell Elaine you laugh like a horse.” (McCornack, 300)

Supportive Messages: sharing messages that express emotional support and that offer personal assistance, such as telling a person of your sympathy or listening to someone without judging. (McCornack, 141) Also referred to as ‘supportive communication.’