Proper [in]direct communication

As you surely know from your own surroundings, certain people communicate more directly than others. These people don’t mind telling you their opinions openly and honestly, regardless of whether you’ll take it positively or negatively. On the other hand, you certainly also know people who tend to communicate more tactfully and thus place more value on the way things are said. From a global perspective, individual countries usually lean more toward one of these forms of communication than the other.

You can learn more about the topic of direct and indirect communication in the following article.

Strategies on dealing with indirect people

  • Only express criticism after careful consideration. Ask yourself whether a specific issue really needs to be addressed or whether the issue is so important that it’s worth causing a conflict.
  • Negative things need to be expressed extremely carefully. In the worst case, addressing critical things too openly could completely ruin your relationship with your counterpart.
  • Follow these common feedback guidelines:
    • Mention more positive things, and mention one or [a maximum of] two suggestions for improvement.
    • Start with the positive things.
    • Give a lot of praise.
    • No personal attacks or insults.
  • If there are a lot of points you’re critical about, choose one or two of the most important ones in order not to escalate the conflict too much. The rest of the points can be addressed later.
  • Even if you find it difficult, don’t be critical in writing, only when speaking. Since you’re not present when your counterparts read your messages, you don’t know how your statements are taken. In certain circumstances, they could interpret your written words as significantly more aggressive or insulting than you meant them to be.
  • Use more smileys – even in business communications! These will grant your communications more harmony and help the reader take your statements in a positive light.
  • Try to read between the lines with indirect people. A small problem is often actually a big one.
  • If you get the feeling that you’ve unintentionally offended an indirect person, it’s been found that giving a lot of compliments can help to re-establish the relationship. Directly addressing the conflict [with the goal of cross-cultural training, global business, directness, direct, indirectness, indirect, tipsresolving it] regrettably doesn’t work very often, as the existence of the conflict itself tends not to be recognized.
  • Listen well to your [indirect] counterparts. That’s the only way you’ll have a chance at understanding what they want to tell you.
  • Ask for opinions; use open questions to that end.
  • For critical issues, use written, anonymous feedback. Indirect people tend to be more open when they don’t have to communicate negative things face-to-face.

Cooperating with direct people

  • Be clear! If you need help, ask for it directly. Address negative things openly. Hints and insinuations may not be understood correctly in certain circumstances.
  • You’ll earn respect by addressing issues directly.
  • Please keep in mind that negative statements are typically not aimed at you personally. They’re rather meant to contribute to the examination of a problem from all sides.
  • Written communication [e.g., e-mail] tends to be shorter, as fewer filler words are used. The focus of communication is not on how something is being said, but rather on what is being said.
  • Please keep in mind that communicating directly doesn’t mean being insulting or condescending. Communicating directly simply means that negative things should be stated openly but neutrally.

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About Markus Eidam

Nach meinem insgesamt vierjährigen Aufenthalt in verschiedenen Ländern dieser Welt bin ich seit dem Jahr 2004 Geschäftsführer bei den Auslands-Experten von Eidam & Partner. In jüngeren Jahren habe ich Interkulturelle Kommunikation, Erwachsenenbildung und Psychologie studiert und mich zum Trainer, Coach und Personalfachwirt der IHK ausbilden lassen. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 80 Zielländern.
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