Module 3: Intercultural Communication – Verbal3.1.2 Direct & Indirect Communication(Independent Level)ExplanationVerbal communication is the act of using language to exchange information or to express ideas, thoughts or feelings to someone else. In this module we are going to examine two different communication styles; direct communication and indirect communication.
Direct CommunicationPeople who use direct communication say exactly what they think. They use words to communicate their message and their main goal is to get or receive information in a clear and efficient manner. Those who use direct communication value honesty and believe it is better to say what needs to be said. They feel it’s ok to say no and reveal their wants, desires and needs easily.
Examples of countries which use direct communication: The United States, Germany and Israel. (Of course within countries individuals will use direct/indirect communication to varying degrees)Indirect CommunicationPeople who use indirect communication do not immediately say exactly what they think. They communicate their message not only through the use of words, but also through implication, understatement and an understanding of the context.
Those who use indirect communication value politeness and aim to protect the reputation and self-esteem of themselves and the people they are speaking with. They do not believe everything needs to be said. They will avoid saying no or revealing their wants, desires and needs if they feel it could cause tension. Examples of countries which use indirect communication: China, Korea and Argentina.Activity 1Hand out the worksheet for Activity 1Read through the description of direct communication and indirect communication.Break up the students into groups of 3/4 and ask them to decide whether each of the sentences below the table is an advantage/disadvantage of direct/indirect communication. Can they think of any others? See below for answers.
Direct Communication Indirect CommunicationAdvantagesClear communicationSaves time as communication is to the point Strong awareness of communication cues/signals’Manage’ communication with care.DisadvantagesRisk of causing offenseMay appear insensitive or rudeRisk of misunderstandingMay appear vague or unreliableAsk the students to think about which style of communication is used in the UK. In order to answer the question, suggest that they think about, from their own experience, how conflict is handled, how disagreement is expressed and how bad news is communicated in the UK.Do they think it is the same style as their country of origin or different?Tell the students that the UK indirect communication is mostly used.
Being polite, avoiding conflict or tension and modesty are all considered important in the UK. At the same time the communication style in UK is informal and humour is generally appreciated. You may find that communication problems occur if you are coming from a culture that uses direct communication or even from a culture that uses different communication signals or patterns. Ask the students to discuss in their groups whether they have had any misunderstandings in the UK which might be due differences in communication style? Or whether any particular conversations have left them feeling puzzled or surprised? Discuss whether there is a cultural explanation.Dealing with communication style differences As British people use indirect communication, they will not, in general, tell you if you have said something which sounds rude or abrupt.
As you will not be told what you are saying wrong, it can be very difficult to address any communication problems or misunderstandings you may have. In this module it is therefore very important to explore the rules of indirect communication and learn some techniques to communicate successfully in the UK.You do not have to like and accept all the differences between the British style of communication and your own, but increasing your understanding and awareness of these differences may help your daily interactions here. -5715098425The rules for indirect communication to be examined in this module will include:Avoid making requests which put another person under pressureAlways refuse offers/suggestions in a polite mannerCriticism of other people and their work should be avoided or done very carefully00The rules for indirect communication to be examined in this module will include:Avoid making requests which put another person under pressureAlways refuse offers/suggestions in a polite mannerCriticism of other people and their work should be avoided or done very carefullyRule Number 1: Avoid making requests which put another person under pressureWhen a request is being made in the UK, it is not asked in a direct manner, for example you would not say, ‘I want the milk’. It would be more usual to say ‘Can I have the milk please?’/ ‘Is it possible to take the milk?’Although asking for something in this manner is perfectly appropriate in many other countries, in the UK it can sound rude. Another important factor to remember is that the request is usually asked in a manner that does not put the person you are asking under pressure. As such British people often:Present options instead of demandsAsk for something in an apologetic fashion Acknowledge the fact that their request may not be possible (so as to avoid embarrassing themselves or the person they are asking in the event their request is refused). …Who knew asking for something could be so complicated! In this section we are going to highlight some simple techniques you can use to ask for something politely which will improve the chance of your request being responded to favourably.
Use ‘can’, ‘would’ or ‘could’ to make requests sound gentler and more polite. Write the following examples up on the board: Where is the bus stop? Would you tell me where the bus stop is?What time is it? Could you tell me what time it is?How do you use this machine?Can you tell me how to use this machine?Furthermore many polite expressions used for making requests are made up of ‘can’, ‘could’ and ‘would’. For example:Could I possibly leave early from work today? I am not feeling well.Do you think I could borrow your umbrella?Would you mind asking John to phone me tomorrow?Use ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’In many cultures it is not necessary to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as often as it is in the UK.
Using ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ is an easy way of making a request sound a lot more polite, so try and get into the practice of using them. Example:I want another cup of tea Could I have another cup of tea please?Can I get by?Excuse me, can I get by please?Showing appreciation in a request will make others more inclined to help you, use expressions such as:It would be greatly appreciated. (formal written request)e.g. Could you send me the information as soon as possible, it would be greatly appreciated.That would be great!(informal spoken / written request)e.
g. If you could send me the information as soon as possible, that would be great!Use ‘if’ to show that you understand that what you are asking may not be possibleUsing ‘if’ shows you are not assuming they will/can help you and shows your gratitude for any help they may give you. If it’s not too much trouble, could you show me how to fill out this form?If you could show me where the envelopes are kept, that would be great!If possible, would you takes notes for me in class tomorrow?Is it alright with you if we talk about this another time?Do you mind if I eat the last slice of cake?Activity 2 – Making Requests, parts A & BHand out the worksheet for Activity 2.On a separate piece of paper ask the students to complete section A& B – rewriting the sentences to make them more polite.Possible answers are shown below:Make the following sentences more polite When is the bank open?Could you tell me when the bank opens please?Where do I buy stamps?Excuse me, do you know where I could buy stamps?I can’t find the train stationWould you be able to tell me where the train Station is please?What’s your name? Could you tell me your name please?Write a polite sentence for each requestAsk to borrow a penWould you mind lending me a pen please?Ask for help carrying boxesCould I possibly ask you to help me carry these boxes?Ask your friend to buy you a If it’s not too much trouble, could you get me a drink when they go to the shopsdrink in the shops please?Ask a customer to phone If it’s not too much trouble, could you phone back later when you will haveback later? And I will have thatthe information readyinformation ready for you then.
When making plans, ‘suggest’ rather ‘demand’ so the other person has the opportunity to express what they would likeThere’s supposed to be a good cafe on Wicklow Street, would you like to try it?Do you feel like going to the park?Shall we say six o’clock?Perhaps we could go to the shops first?Or else say what you would like to do but follow it up with…If it suits you?Does that sound ok to you?Requests which are urgent or potentially difficult often benefit from a lead-inIf you have a request which is urgent or a request which could sound accusatory (both types could place pressure on the person being asked), it can help to include a lead-in where you explain why you need the person to do the thing you are requesting so as to soften the request.Example 1: A friend of yours has borrowed a DVD of yours which she has forgotten to return and you have phoned her to ask for it back. Begin with a bit of small talke.g. ‘Hi Sara, how are you?’ ‘Did you have a good weekend?’Avoid embarrassing your friend or sound as if you are accusing her so ask/talk about the DVD rather than asking directly to have it returned and emphasising the fact she has not returned it so far.e.g. ‘Did you ever get the chance to watch the DVD?’ Let her know in a non-pressured way you would like it back e.
g. ‘I was saying to Mark we might watch it together so when you’re finished with it let me know and I’ll pick it up from you.’Note: this approach will only work with people who use indirect communication, if you find they do not take the hint, you are then warranted to ask in a more direct fashion (although still politely).e.
g. ‘Would you mind if I got the DVD back from you this Weekend?’Example 2: You are working in an office and waiting to receive some work from a co-worker. They have not emailed you the work and you are fast approaching the deadline. You need email your co-worker and ask for the work.In order to avoid sounding accusatory by pointing out their slowness and creating tension, ask how the work is going rather than asking why they haven’t sent the work to you already. e.g.
‘How are you getting on with the financial report? Or ‘I was just wondering whether you have much work left to do on the financial report?Emphasise the deadline is approaching so they understand it’s urgente.g. ‘Once I get the figures from you I have to start compiling my presentation to give to the committee on Tuesday’.Request what you need and show appreciatione.
g. ‘So if you could email the report to me as soon as you have it done I’d really appreciate it’Activity 2, Making Requests, parts C ; DAsk the students to work in pairs and complete parts C;D of the worksheet for Activity 2. (They can either write out their responses or do in the form of a role-play)Possible answers are shown below:Making plansI was thinking that perhaps we could go to the cinema tomorrow evening if you feel like it? There’s supposed to be a good film on at 7 o’clock if that suits you?Explanation for your requestHi, I was just calling to see how you are getting on with my car that I dropped in earlier? You see I have to go to visit my cousin at 5, so it’d be great if you could let me know as soon as it’s finished and I will come and pick it up. _______________________________________________________________________Rule Number 2: Always refuse offers/suggestions in a polite mannerPeople who use indirect communication will avoid saying ‘no’ if it could cause offense or appear insensitive. Activity 2, RefusalsBreak the students up into pairs and make sure they have the ‘Refusal’ section on the Activity 2 worksheet in front of them.One student asks the first question and then other student has to think of a polite response to refuse the offer/invitation. For the second question they swap over and the other student asks the question etc. Once they have come up with polite negative responses for each question, go through the responses along with the suggested ones and explanations given below:Would you like a cup of tea?No, I’m fine, thank you.
A simple question such as ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ can be replied to with a ‘no thank you’ -the person does not have to give much time or effort to make a cup of tea and therefore it should not cause offense if you decline.Would you like a slice of this cake I made this morning?That looks delicious thank you, but I have just had lunch and couldn’t eat any more at the moment.As the person has put time and effort into making the cake, it is necessary to give a reason why you are not eating so as not to cause offence. Complimenting the look of the cake is also a good idea!I am having some people over to my house for dinner tonight, would you like to join us?Thank you. That’s really kind of you, but unfortunately I can’t as I already have plans.If you are asked to go for dinner, simply saying ‘no thank you’ will no longer be sufficient.
It will seem abrupt and may imply you do not want to spend time with that person. It is a good idea to express gratitude for the offer, regret that you cannot go and give a reason why you cannot go. You don’t need to give much detail about why you cannot go but the other person may ask you so if you don’t really have plans it might be better to be honest and say you’re tired and need an evening in etc.
Would you like to go for a drink with me?Thank you for asking, but I’m going to have to say no.This question was asked without any time in mind so it will not suffice to say you have plans. It is important to think how the question was asked, if it was a romantic invitation or a request from someone you are not interested in spending time with then the following responses, which do not express regret or provide a reason why, work best.Thank you for asking, but I’m going to have to say no.
orNo thanks, I appreciate the offer though.If the person is insistent you will have to refuse more clearly.I’m not interested thanks.If it is a person you would like to spend time with, but the offer of a drink you are refusing, make sure to highlight the fact you are not saying no to the drink and not to the person.No, thank you. I don’t drink. Maybe we could do something else?This shows you are still open to spending time with the person.Can I help you to carry your shopping?Thank you for the offer, but don’t worry, I can manage.
Could you show me how to work the fax machine?I can’t at the moment sorry as I’m really busy, but I’m happy to help you later.Give a reason why you can’t help and apologise. Not helping someone when they ask can be viewed badly so if possible think of another time when you could help the person.
This shows you are open to helping others but it wasn’t the right time when they asked you.Would you be able to show me how to make a graph on Microsoft Excel?Well the problem is I’m not very good at making graphs sorry, maybe you could ask Mark?Show regret that you can’t help and explain why. Think about whether there is anyone else you can suggest who might know how to do it.Are you married?I’d prefer not to answer thatIt is not appropriate for an interviewer to ask you whether you are married in an interview. In this situation it is best to respond directly so as to set your boundaries. When other people refuse:It is always necessary to remember that indirect communicators have trouble saying no.
If you do not receive a clear ‘yes’ in response to your request, it may in fact have been refused without you realising it!In the UK people often say ‘maybe’ or ‘possibly’ to mean ‘no’.change the subject or tell a story to avoid saying noask a question to avoid saying noRule number 3: Criticism of other people and their work should be avoided or done very carefullyAs the principle goal of indirect communication is to avoid creating tensions and protect the reputation and self-esteem of those involved, criticism has to be handled very carefully.Public confrontation should be avoided; if something must be addressed handle it on a one-to-one basis.Avoid personal accusations and phrases like ‘you’re wrong!’ or ‘you didn’t handle that meeting well’ as it will only make the person defensive. It is best to focus on actions/things rather than the person and it’s better to leave the word ‘you’ out altogether. We are now going to examine some techniques for successfully handling criticism:DiversionSuggestionP.I.
PPolite complaintsDiversionIf you are asked for feedback but want to avoid criticizing the person, a tactic often used is diversion. Diversion involves changing topic/asking a question without the other person noticing you have not answered their specific question.Example:What did you think of my report?You could see you put a lot of work into it. Did it take a long time to complete?Q.How did you enjoy the meal?A. Oh yes I’m so full now; I won’t need to eat for a few days!Diversion is a good tactic if you feel the criticism you have to offer will be offensive or if it is something the person can’t change.
For example in the first question, the first person has already finished their report and they cannot include the changes you suggest into the work.Criticism can, however, help someone improve what they are doing so diversion is not always the best policy. In fact, in a workplace it is good to demonstrate your critiquing skills. The following two techniques: suggestion and PIP are probably the best strategies.SuggestionCriticism is rarely received well as the person receiving it may feel hurt or defensive. So instead of criticising, try offering a positive and helpful suggestion where they might improve.
Use phrases such as:’I find it helpful to…”One thing that might make work well would be to…”I’d love it if…’Remember to be kind with your suggestions so as to avoid it sounding critical. Choose one or two important suggestions rather than making too many which may leave the person feeling frustrated. If the person is beginning to look hurt, hold off on giving any more criticism.P.I.PP.I.P is a technique used for expressing constructive criticism and stands for:Praise.
Improve. PraiseStep 1: Start off by focusing on the strengths of the item in question. Find several specific things you genuinely like. By beginning with the positives the person will feel appreciated and should be more open to hear what else you have to say. Step 2:Next talk about one or two areas that you feel need improvement. (Use the suggestion method outlined above)Step 3: Finish off by summarising the strengths you outlined at the beginning and what positive outcomes could be expected if they take up your suggestions.
P.I.P is particularly useful if you do not know the person you are giving constructive criticismtoo well. Polite ComplaintsIf you are in a café, shop or bank etc.
where the server has made some small mistake here are three phrases that will help you get the issue resolved successfully and peacefully.For example, your order in a café has been mixed up. Instead of telling the waiter he has got your order wrong, try:I’m sorry to bother you but I asked for a cheese sandwich not a ham one.Excuse me, I’m afraid there may have been a misunderstanding I wanted a cheese sandwich not a ham one.Can you help me? There has been a mix-up with my order; I was hoping for a cheese sandwich not a ham one. All of these phrases avoid directly accusing the waiter of making a mistake and should make him more cooperative to resolve the problem.Activity 3Put the students in groups of 2/3 and ask them to read the statements on the worksheetAsk them to consider the questions at the bottom of the sheet and then to try to rewrite parts of the dialogue to make it a gentler and more in-line with indirect communication.
Ask for feedback and then read through the explanation provided below.Manager:Thank you for your report John, what did you think about it Alison? Calling on Alison to critique the report may embarrass her and put her under pressure. The manager should have begun himself by outlining the positives before highlighting any areas that need improvement.
Alison: Ehm, it needs work.Stating what she did like about the report and then providing one or two specific suggestions would be better rather than making a general statement like ‘it needs work’. This will only make John feel defensive, especially as it is not a one-on-one meeting.
John: Oh ok, well it’s only a first draft, what exactly do you think needs work?Alison: Well first of all, the figures you provided regarding employment levels are not accurate and I think we should change the title of the report to something shorter.’the figures you provided regarding employment levels are not accurate’ -; ‘I have some other figures here regarding employment levels; those ones may be slightly old’.’I think we should’ -; ‘I have a possible suggestion/ what do you think of this idea…?’John: I checked the employment figures on the website only last week so I don’t know why they would be wrong. And I like the name; it tells you exactly what the report is about, so personally I don’t think the length matters.Manager:I don’t agree John, I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep that name. ‘I don’t agree’ -; ‘I think we need to talk more about this”I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep that name’ -; ‘Are there any other ideas?/What do you think of this idea?’John: silence from JohnManager:And you must have been accessing the wrong information for the employment figures.
They look out-dated to me. Try and remedy these problems John and we will talk about it again at the next meeting.’you must have been accessing the wrong information’ -; ‘Have you tried looking for employment figures on employmentfigures.com? They have the most up to date data’.
John:Do either of you have any suggestions for other names?Manager:That’s for you to think about John, we don’t want to talk about this now.’That’s for you to think about John’ -> ‘Why don’t we all give this some thought?”We don’t want to talk about this now’ -> ‘I’m afraid we’ll have to move on to the next topic as we have not much time.’Direct Communication Indirect CommunicationValue HonestyIt’s ok to say noTell the truthEasily reveal their wants, desires and needsSay exactly what they thinkValue PolitenessAvoid saying noIf the truth might hurt, soften it.Do not easily reveal their wants, desires and needsSuggest something without directly saying itAdvantages .DisadvantagesMay appear vague or unreliableActivity 1 – Direct and Indirect CommunicationDecide whether each of these is an advantage/disadvantage of direct/indirect communication:One has been done as an exampleMay appear insensitive or rudeClear communicationRisk of misunderstandingMay appear vague or unreliableStrong awareness of communication cues/signalsManage communication with careRisk of causing offenseSaves time as communication is to the pointActivity 2 – Making RequestsUse ‘can’, ‘would’ or ‘could’ to makes requests sound gentler and more polite. Use ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’Make the following sentences more polite When is the bank open?Where do I buy stamps?I can’t find the train stationWhat’s your name? (asking on the phone in an office environment)Requests:Could I possibly …?Do you think I could …?Would you mind …ing…
?If it’s not too much trouble, could you …?If you could …, that would be great!If possible, would you…?Is it alright with you if …?Do you mind if I …?Suggesting:Do you feel like …?Shall we say…?Perhaps we could …?There’s supposed to be…If it suits you?Does that sound ok to you?Write a polite sentence for each requestAsk to borrow a penAsk for help carrying boxesAsk your friend to buy you a drink when they go to the shopsAsk a customer to phone back laterMaking plansYou are arranging a meeting with a friend tomorrow evening. You would like to go and see a film at 7 o’clock, write out how you would suggest thisExplaining why something is urgentYou dropped your car into the garage to get fixed this morning. The mechanic told you they would phone you after lunch to let you know the car was ready. It is now 3pm and you have still not heard from them.
You have now decided to ring him yourself. Write out a few sentences of what you would say.Activity 2 RefusalsIn pairs, take turns asking and politely refusing the following questions:Would you like a cup of tea?Would you like a slice of this cake I made this morning?I am having some people over to my house for dinner tonight, would you like to join us?Would you like to go for a drink with me?Can I help you to carry your shopping?Could you show me how to work the fax machine? (you’re too busy to help)Would you be able to show me how to make a graph on Microsoft Excel? (you’re not able to make graphs)In an interview you are asked:Are you married?Activity 3 –Communication in a meetingJohn has just presented a report he has written in a meeting with his manager and another co-worker Alison. He is waiting for feedback. Read through the dialogue.Manager:Thank you for your report John, what did you think about it Alison? Alison: Ehm, I thought it was good although it needs work.
John: Oh ok, it’s only a first draft, what do you think needs work?Alison: Well first of all, the figures you provided regarding employment levels are not accurate and I think we should change the title of the report to something shorter.John: I checked the employment figures on the website only last week so I don’t know why they would be wrong. And I like the name; it tells you exactly what the report is about, so personally I don’t think the length matters.
Manager:I don’t agree John; I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep that name. John: silence from JohnManager:And you must have been accessing the wrong information for the employment figures. They look out-dated to me. Try and remedy these problems John and we will talk about it again at the next meeting.John:Do either of you have any suggestions for other names?Manager:That’s for you to think about John, we don’t want to talk about this now.How must John be feeling after receiving feedback on his report? Do you think the Manager handled the situation well?In groups of 2/3 try and identify which parts of the dialogue may have been too harsh and think how you could re-write it to make it gentler and more indirect so John is not too disheartened!