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Direct and Indirect Communication

Direct and Indirect communication are different styles of interacting which some people use.

Direct communication is when the speaker clearly communicates their meaning verbally. It is often to focused on the meaning rather that how it might be interpreted. It is usually clear, honest and to the point and does not involve flowery language or disguised underlying meanings.

Indirect communication is when the speaker uses context and cues to communicate their meaning. Their thoughts are often expressed using flowery/subtle language or convoluted sentences. It is often used to be polite or to avoid offence.

Example 1:

Direct: "Would you like some tea?"

"No, thank you. I don't like it."

Indirect: "Would you like some tea?"

"I'd love some, but maybe later."

Example 2:

Direct: "She got a huge shock."

Indirect: "She died from fright."

Both direct and indirect communication are skills which can be learned through practice and experience. Our direct and indirect communication cards can be used to help with this. These cards help children/teenagers to understand the difference between direct and indirect communication and identify them. Using these as a base, children and teenagers can then practice both direct and indirect communication.

Difference cultures tend to prefer different types of communication. Western cultures tend to be considered to be more direct while Eastern cultures are often considered to be more indirect. However, there is variations within all cultures.

For example, in some countries when making decisions in a group, it is considered rude to strongly state your opinion or use direct communication. Instead, a long debate will ensue where all the individuals subtly hint at their preference and hope that the others will be up on the cues.

In other countries, where direct communication is preferred, people are expected to honestly and clearly give their opinions. Being indirect here may result in others taking what you say literally and assuming that what you say is what you want. They may also become irritated by those who are increasing the complexity of the conversation by using indirect communication.

Autistic people often prefer direct communication as it is clear and direct. They often find answering questions honestly is preferable. Like everyone, they can sometimes find indirect communication difficult to interpret and may misread or misunderstand people's intentions. They may also not recognize when someone is being indirect and instead interpret their statements as direct.



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