Indirect communication is acting out - rather than directly saying - what a person is thinking or feeling using facial expressions, tone of voice, and/or gestures. Other indicators of indirect communication include:
- Conflicts are often sorted out through intermediaries, rather than through direct communication or confrontation.
- Stories may be told to make a point, instead of stating one’s opinion outright.
- People who employ a more indirect style of communication tend to keep their feelings to themselves.
- A verbal “yes” might actually mean a polite “no”.
So, it’s important to pay close attention to how your participant reacts when you ask whether they like/want/need something.
When asked if everything is going OK, the participant from the culture characterized by indirect communication will likely say “yes”. However, that may not be the case if their demeanor is telling you otherwise. If you suspect that something is wrong, try to find out through a friend of your hosted participant, a host sibling, teacher, or your liaison what factors might be at play.
If you discover that something is wrong, try using the storytelling method to demonstrate how a situation might be resolved. For example, “When I was 16, my family moved to a new town and I was very lonely at first. I told my mother and she gave me some good ideas how to meet people and make new friends.”
If not already, your hosted participant will eventually become accustomed to the more direct and to-the-point style of communication common in the U.S. However, early in the experience, it can be quite disconcerting, especially if your hosted participant’s English language ability is low. Use Tips for Adjusting: The First Days and Beyond to ensure that you and your hosted participant can understand each other, regardless of cultural orientation.
Experienced Host Family Advice: Our biggest challenge was having the participant feel comfortable telling us when she wanted or needed something. We had to continually remind her that it was okay for her to request something.
Views Towards Differing Communication Styles
- Direct communicators tend to view their communication style as honest and clear, while indirect communicators tend to view it as inconsiderate or rude.
- Indirect communicators tend to view their communication style as polite and considerate, while direct communicators tend to view it as wishy-washy or evasive.
Now that we have shared some information and strategies that we hope will help you and your hosted participant understand each other and communicate more effectively, we will outline other common issues and concerns related to the hosting experience in the Cultural Aspects of the U.S. article.