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Are You Direct or Indirect?

“It cost us $8,000,” Ben said.

He was talking about a situation where he was just talking through things out loud and the next thing you know, things got done.” 

(The thing that got done was unapproved rental of a very expensive truck)

He was frustrated.

Ben’s the Executive Vice President of his company.  When he talks, people listen.

What am I doing wrong?” he asked.

I told him there are two types of speaking styles. Direct and indirect. His default style (the one he uses when he isn’t thinking about how he wants to be perceived) is indirect, and in this case, it created confusion and a costly mistake.

How do you know if you’re a direct or indirect speaker?

Take a look;

Indirect speakers

  • Present the details of an idea, thought or direction before getting to the main point
  • Use qualifiers such as (probably, might, I think, could be)
  • Read between the lines in conversations
  • Tend to avoid answering questions or making statements that cause tension

Direct speakers

  • Lead with the main point
  • Take others’ communication at face value
  • Provide short, quick answers

Neither style is all good or all bad, and you likely use both depending on the scenario (e.g., asking for a report vs. providing difficult feedback to a colleague).

Direct speakers have a lower risk of misunderstanding, but a higher risk of surprising or offending.

Indirect speakers have a higher risk of misunderstanding, but less risk of offending. 

Flexing between the two helps you communicate more efficiently and effectively.

Once you know your style, you can:

Identify the style of others

  • listen to and watch the speaking styles of others
  • ask others about their speaking style
  • be aware of your biases toward the opposite style.

Adapt your style

If you’re indirect

  • lead with the main point, hold the details unless asked specifically
  • recognize that you may frustrate a direct speaker
  • ask others if they have questions

If you’re direct

  • pay attention to nonverbal cues to determine how your message is received
  • recognize you may not be receiving all of an intended message
  • ask questions (what am I missing?)
  • recognize that your statements may be perceived negatively

Ben’s aware, now, of how his style and he’s learning to flex between direct and indirect speaking.  It’s saving him (and his team) a lot of time and frustration.

I’m curious, what’s your default speaking style?  Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going! 

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