Indirect communication is a way of conveying information in which a person acts so that other people understand what they think or feel, rather than speaking directly. It is usually used as an attempt to convince others to act as you wish, although it doesn’t always have to be a negative thing.
In indirect communication, the person uses elements such as tone of voice, gestures, facial movements, posture and body language to make the interlocutor understand what he wants to convey. In fact, on some occasions it is possible for the individual to convey something completely different indirectly than what they are communicating aloud.
Indirect communication can occur for a number of different reasons. Sometimes people just don’t want to feel rejected and believe that if they say what they think out loud, they will suffer negative consequences. In other cases, the individual has a passive-aggressive communication style and uses this method preferentially.
Indirect communication often has very negative consequences on the personal relationships of those who use it. This is because when using it, the caller cannot be sure what message the other person wants to convey. However, sometimes it can be very helpful.
Characteristics of indirect communication
Indirect communication can occur for many different reasons, but whenever it appears, it has a number of characteristics that make it easily recognizable. Next, we will see which are the most important.
– Contradictory verbal and non-verbal information
According to communication experts, any exchange of information can occur in two ways: verbal and non-verbal. The first has to do with the words we use, while the second has more to do with our gestures, our tone of voice, our facial expressions and our body language.
In most communication environments, the verbal and non-verbal parts are aligned to convey a message as efficiently as possible. However, in indirect communication, it is common for a message to be conveyed through words, and a non-verbal message.
This tends to pose a very serious communication problem, as most interlocutors expect the sender to be communicating directly and will have trouble understanding the true meaning of the message. However, in some cultures it is common to communicate indirectly, so that this difficulty does not appear.
– The sender believes he is transmitting his message
But why would anyone communicate in a way that prevents the transmission of information correctly? The reality is that, in most cases, the person using this strategy believes that his interlocutor will be able to read the subtext and understand what he is really saying.
The problem is that, in most cases, the receiver tends to keep the information transmitted verbally and not indirectly. As a consequence, misunderstandings often arise between the two parties in the communication process, and the sender tends to be frustrated at not being able to make himself understood by his interlocutor.
– Intention to evade
According to all the studies carried out on indirect communication, this style of transmitting information has as main objective to avoid offending the interlocutor or disturbing him in any way. Therefore, it occurs most commonly in those cultures that place great emphasis on emotional care for other individuals.
In direct communication, the most important objective is the transmission of information in a clear and understandable way throughout the world, even at the risk of offending the other person. On the other hand, on the contrary, a greater weight is placed on protecting emotions and therefore the importance of clarity and effectiveness of communication is diminished.
Types of indirect communication
Indirect communication can occur mainly in two different ways: at the cultural level and at the individual level. Next, we will see what are the differences between these two phenomena.
at the cultural level
According to research carried out in the field of cross-cultural psychology, one of the factors that most differentiates some societies from others is the way in which their members communicate. In this sense, we can find some in which direct communication is more common and others that favor indirect communication.
For example, many Asian cultures prefer to use indirect communication because they place great emphasis on protecting the feelings of others and avoiding embarrassment and social unrest at all costs. This is the opposite of what happens in cultures like Europe, where the most common is to use a direct and clear communication style.
When indirect communication takes place in a culture where everyone uses it, most of its disadvantages disappear. This is because interlocutors belonging to the same society will have no problem understanding what is really wanted to convey.
at the individual level
The other case where indirect communication can occur is at the individual level; that is, in a person who belongs to a culture that favors direct communication, but who prefers to use this other strategy. In this situation, there are usually many disadvantages in exchanging information.
People who use an indirect style often have a passive-aggressive way of communicating. This means that they don’t clearly convey their needs, but become hostile when other people don’t meet them.
Unfortunately, this strategy often doesn’t work for anyone involved in the communication process and can cause a lot of problems in the personal relationships of those affected.
Here are some examples of indirect communication:
– Change the subject in front of a question instead of making it clear that we don’t want to answer it.
– Avoid confrontation, for example by not talking to a person with whom we have an outstanding conflict.
– Say the opposite of what we really want to convey, but in a tone of voice that can give a clue to what our true feelings are.