Indirect Communication: Types, Characteristics, Examples And Advantages

Indirect communication

Indirect communication is the part of the communicative process in which information is said but not in a clear or concrete way. It usually remains diffuse in the non-verbal part of the communication, usually being contrary to what the person explicitly says orally.

Below we will see in more depth what this communication style is, its characteristics, examples and some advantages that, as surprising as they may seem, this way of communicating things in an unclear way has.

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, effective communication stands as the cornerstone of success for businesses and individuals alike. Whether you’re navigating the corporate world, building relationships, or engaging with your audience online, mastering the art of indirect communication is essential for achieving your goals. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of indirect communication, exploring its benefits, strategies, and practical applications in various contexts.

What is indirect communication?

Indirect communication, also called indirect language, is the communicative style consisting of transmitting information in a non-explicit, clear or direct way It clearly differs from direct language because in this the ideas are transmitted clearly, verbalizing the message and making things understood as they are stated, without interpretations or confusing messages.

When a person transmits a message indirectly, they do so through their non-verbal language. That is, he does not clearly verbalize what he wants to express, but instead tries to communicate it through various aspects such as tone of voice, gestures, body language and other non-verbal aspects.

indirect communication It is generally used as a non-explicit attempt to persuade or influence someone to make it behave in a desired way. Although it does not necessarily have to be used in a negative way, the truth is that indirect language has a manipulative nature or, at least, serves to transmit an idea that, due to sociocultural aspects, turns out to be taboo if it is said in a negative way. explicit.

It is for all this that it is common for there to be a marked contradiction between what the person says and does. On the one hand, the sender emits, either orally or in writing, a message (e.g., “I am very calm and satisfied”), but on the other hand, either through his tone of voice ( For example, a high-pitched tone is associated with irritability) or body movement (for example, rapid hand movements are associated with nervousness) rather indicates the opposite.

The reasons why indirect communication appears are many, basically being the fact that the sender does not dare to say something clearly and verbally. Whatever the reason, the truth is that can be the source of misunderstandings, in addition to sometimes being related to a passive-aggressive communication style. It is especially not recommended in contexts in which it is necessary to be sincere and honest, such as within a relationship or in the work environment.

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Characteristics of indirect communication

As we have mentioned, indirect communication can arise for several reasons. Whatever they are, the following characteristics can be found in every indirect communicative style.

1. Contradiction between the verbal and the non-verbal

As we have mentioned, it often happens that the message transmitted indirectly contradicts what is said directly. There is a contradiction between the verbal and the non-verbal.

Broadly speaking, we understand verbal communication as that which is transformed into words, both orally and in writing, while non-verbal communication is that which is emitted in the form of gestures, body language and tone of voice, among other aspects.

In direct communication, the verbal message is clear and direct, without free interpretations On the other hand, in indirect communication, with a non-verbal component, you must rely on tone, gestures, facial expressions and body language.

Although in most cases the verbal and the non-verbal are in harmony, in the case of indirect communication the person has a non-verbal language that contradicts the message that has been issued verbally.

This is a communicative problem, since most interlocutors expect the person they are speaking to to say things directly and do not expect to have to interpret, through their non-verbal language, what they really want to say.

2. The sender believes he is transmitting his message

One of the problems that usually arises in indirect communication is that it really the person believes that, through their non-verbal message, they are making themselves understood That is, he trusts that his interlocutor will know how to read between the lines and will understand that he means exactly the opposite of what he is saying verbally.

The problem is that, in reality, in most cases the receiver tends to keep the information transmitted in a direct, clear and specific way, while the indirect part can either be ignored, ignored or simply not captured. And this is the origin of many misunderstandings.

3. Avoidant intention

An important aspect of indirect communication is that the sender has an avoidant intention when transmitting his real message. He does not want to express it explicitly, for fear of offending his interlocutor or to be too abrupt, and prefers to say it indirectly, thinking that this will soften it.

As surprising as it may seem, this way of thinking is quite common, making indirect communication a fairly common communication style, especially in cultures in which special care is taken not to harm the feelings of the other party.

Types of indirect communication

When it comes to understanding indirect communication in greater depth, we can talk about two levels: the cultural and the individual.

On a cultural level

Indirect communication can be a very important aspect in certain cultures, especially in those in which offending the interlocutor is avoided by all means. For it It is about communicating information in a non-verbal way although this may be contrary to what the issuer is saying, explicitly and more clearly.

This is especially visible in Asian cultures. For example, in the case of Japan it is quite frowned upon to say something that could upset the other party, given that a lot of importance is placed on protecting the feelings of others (rather than expressing them) and on avoiding embarrassment and social discomfort. All coast.

This is especially understandable with an anecdote that often happens to Westerners who live in the country of the Rising Sun

On more than one occasion it has happened that he has gone to a store to buy a certain item, whatever it may be. If it is not in that establishment, and the clerk knows it, instead of being clear and direct and saying that he does not have it in that store, he prefers to say “I am going to the store to look” or “I am going to consult with the manager” and, perfectly, it can “hide” in the back room waiting for the customer to leave and “get” that they don’t have it.

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From our Western perspective we may think that this way of behaving implies a significant waste of time, and this is undoubtedly the case. However, for the Japanese citizen, who has been raised in that culture and knows what the sociocultural rules are that govern his or her world, they understand, first of all, what the hidden meaning is behind that “I’m going to the store to look.”

Instead, and for better or worse, We don’t worry about whether saying “no” will offend the other person It is clear that, depending on what occasions, being too abrupt does not pay (e.g., trying to break up with our partner and saying that it is because he does not satisfy us sexually as before and we prefer to sleep with the neighbor.), however, in certain cases, In other contexts it is clear that saying a simple “no” helps us save a lot of time.

At the individual level

On an individual level, indirect communication can indeed be an indicator of a problem, especially if you belong to a culture in which being clear is prioritized, as is often the case in most Western cultures.

If that is the case, you may be dealing with a person who suffers from a problem, who does not dare to say things clearly or has a passive-aggressive communication style. It does not pay anyone, both the sender and the interlocutor, to send encrypted messages in the form of gestures and see if there is luck and the interlocutor ends up understanding them.

Understanding Indirect Communication

Indirect communication refers to the subtle, implicit ways in which individuals convey messages without directly stating them. Unlike direct communication, which is explicit and straightforward, indirect communication relies on nuances, context, and nonverbal cues to convey meaning. It encompasses a wide range of techniques, including body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and even silence.

The Power of Subtlety

One of the key advantages of indirect communication lies in its ability to convey complex messages with subtlety and finesse. By employing indirect language and nonverbal cues, communicators can navigate sensitive topics, manage conflict, and convey emotions effectively. This approach allows for greater flexibility and adaptability in various interpersonal and professional scenarios.

Building Rapport and Trust

Indirect communication plays a pivotal role in building rapport and trust between individuals. By paying attention to subtle cues and nuances, communicators can demonstrate empathy, understanding, and respect for others’ perspectives. This fosters a sense of connection and mutual appreciation, laying the foundation for meaningful relationships and collaborations.

Strategies for Mastering Indirect Communication

Effective indirect communication requires a nuanced understanding of human behavior, psychology, and social dynamics. Here are some strategies to help you hone your skills and leverage the power of indirect communication in your interactions:

1. Active Listening

Active listening is a fundamental aspect of indirect communication. By attentively listening to others and observing their nonverbal cues, you can gain valuable insights into their thoughts, feelings, and underlying motivations. Practice empathy and validation to demonstrate understanding and foster open communication channels.

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2. Reading Between the Lines

Indirect communication often involves reading between the lines to discern underlying meanings and intentions. Pay close attention to subtle cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. Consider the context and emotional dynamics at play to interpret messages accurately and respond accordingly.

3. Using Diplomatic Language

Diplomatic language allows you to convey messages tactfully and respectfully, minimizing the risk of misunderstanding or conflict. Choose your words carefully, avoiding blunt or confrontational language. Instead, opt for diplomatic phrases that convey your message effectively while preserving harmony and goodwill.

4. Leveraging Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal communication, including gestures, facial expressions, and posture, plays a significant role in indirect communication. Be mindful of your own nonverbal cues and how they may influence others’ perceptions. Likewise, pay attention to the nonverbal signals of those you’re communicating with, as they can provide valuable insights into their thoughts and feelings.

Practical Applications of Indirect Communication

Indirect communication finds application in a wide range of personal, professional, and social contexts. Here are some examples of how you can leverage indirect communication to achieve your objectives:

1. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

In negotiation and conflict resolution scenarios, indirect communication can help defuse tensions and find mutually beneficial solutions. By employing active listening, diplomatic language, and empathy, you can navigate conflicts effectively and preserve relationships.

2. Leadership and Management

Effective leaders understand the importance of indirect communication in inspiring and motivating their teams. By leading by example, providing constructive feedback, and fostering open dialogue, leaders can cultivate a positive and productive work environment.

3. Marketing and Branding

In the realm of marketing and branding, indirect communication plays a crucial role in shaping perceptions and influencing consumer behavior. Marketers utilize storytelling, symbolism, and visual imagery to convey brand values and evoke emotional responses from their target audience.

4. Interpersonal Relationships

Indirect communication is essential for nurturing healthy interpersonal relationships based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. By expressing empathy, validating others’ experiences, and communicating openly, individuals can strengthen their bonds and resolve conflicts constructively.

Does it have advantages?

Indirect communication gets a bad rap, and no wonder. Compared to its direct counterpart, which is clear, honest and concise, it seems that indirect is only weak, dishonest, inefficient and confusing. It is not surprising that because of this one hears phrases like:

However, in some specific cases, This communication style can have its pros especially if you know how to use it and if our interlocutor is able to understand what we are saying between the lines.

1. Artistic component

There is an artistic part in indirect communication. We are used to logical thinking, where a clear and pragmatic strategy is established following a specific number of steps.

However, With indirect communication we have a way of transmitting information that is not governed by specific guidelines, is not limited nor can it be broken with brute force. There is a certain degree of softness and artistic freedom.

2. Allows you to edit while talking

One of the main advantages of indirect communication is that it allows you to “edit while speaking”. That is, it allows us to constantly adjust the message depending on the feedback we receive, modifying it depending on how convenient we consider to issue it or not.

3. Go beyond what is explicitly said

Indirect communication forces us to go a little beyond the expressed message. That is to say, forces us to try to read between the lines try to understand if the person is comfortable or tells us everything they would like directly.

Relying too much on verbal communication, both oral and written, can make us lose significant content in the message, a part that can give us a clue as to whether the person is comfortable or has any criticism to make to us.

Indirect communication is a powerful tool for navigating the complexities of human interaction and achieving desired outcomes. By mastering the art of subtlety, empathy, and diplomacy, you can enhance your communication skills and build meaningful connections with others. Whether in the boardroom, the classroom, or the digital sphere, effective indirect communication is the key to success.