When I began writing my doctorate thesis, I gave what I wrote to my supervisor. Two days later, he said he had read it, handed me the sheets of paper and said “You can put it in the paper bin.” .
Well, that was directness in its purest form.He did not think about the possibility of hurting me with his judgement. Was I hurt? For sure, I wanted more positive feedback but I knew him and how we were direct with one another. I wasn’t hurt, disconcerted maybe.
Had he been of the indirect kind, he probably would have said something like “It was an interesting read, you covered a lot of literature but I would like to make some comments.” The end result would have been the same, me rewriting that piece.
However, the manner of conveying the information would have been completely different. You must have yourself many examples of this kind of situations. So, what characterises the two sides of this communication continuum?
In short, being direct is calling a cat a cat. When you are direct, you say things as you see them.You talk to the point, without wrapping your words in what you consider unnecessary considerations. In contrast, being indirect is being careful about what you say and how you say it.
What makes a culture more direct or indirect is related to the separation put between an individual and her/his thoughts and actions. In direct cultures, when somebody says “It is rubbish” , other direct people understand that it is a judgement of the idea or action, not of the person. In contrast, somebody from a more indirect culture is more likely to take it personally. Indirect cultures are about not losing face.So, people in indirect cultures will speak in a way that always gives credit to others, a way that cannot be understood as a criticism.
We all have a preference towards directness or indirectness. At the same time, most of us are able to use both styles of communication. Do you really speak to your boss and your kids in the same way?
So, when you move to a new culture, a new country, observe carefully what style people usually use and be conscious and aware of using this style when interacting with people. You will avoid upsets for everyone and make communicating a lot more positive experience.