I have a question about communication. What does God say about indirect communication? I recognize that some cultures in the world speak to each other indirectly and they sometimes or often may not tell a straight forward answer to a question asked by a direct communicator. It can seem as if the indirect person is not telling the truth. I think women use this form of communication as well. Is it wrong for people to speak indirectly with each other? Also what would you say is the best way to communicate with indirect communicators such as women and people from certain cultures? Such as communicating the gospel and talking to each other regarding romance, dating, marriage? For me I have a hard time not getting a straight-forward answer. I always want the truth and straight answer, but sometimes I may not get it. How can I handle this effectively and in a biblical way that pleases the Lord? Do I just have to accept a less detailed answer or no answer?

Thanks for your help!


"Indirect communication" is just a fancy way of referring to people to pay attention to non-verbal clues, such as body language in a conversation. Included, as well, is paying attention to what a person doesn't say, which is an important listening skill. These things are not necessarily lies, though one can often catch a liar by noting the disparity between what is said, what is not said, and how they behave. I attempt to do this when answering questions. I look carefully at what was said, but I also take note of what wasn't said (reading between the lines) and the words chosen to express a thought.

For it to be successful, a person needs to understand human nature. For example, most people want to think well of themselves, so there is a strong tendency to skip over facts that show them in a bad light. I'm not talking about lying or purposeful misleading of another person. For example, if I asked how your day went, you would not give me a blow by blow account of the entire day -- it would take too long. Instead, you would give me a summary, but in what you select for the summary you will have a strong tendency to pick the things that put you in a positive light.

Women tend to be better at multi-tasking than men, thus men tend to focus on what was said, while women focus on the myriads of non-verbal clues. That's why they often pick up on things that men miss. But it also causes them difficulty when communicating with men because they assume men are purposely using non-verbal clues when they usually are not even aware such things exist. Still, it is something important to cultivate because "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19). Paying attention to the non-verbal clues is an important part of listening.

In teaching the gospel, non-verbal clues, such as sincerity, is important, but you cannot present the truth by relying on non-verbal clues. "But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (II Corinthians 4:2). There was nothing subtle about Paul's approach to preaching. He states that that he was honest and blunt. There were no hidden messages or hidden agendas with Paul. Yet, when we read Paul's writings we realize that there can be a richness of expression even in plain speech.

Where indirect communication can be wrong is when a person uses it to deceive others. Indirect communication can be manipulated to show sincerity while the person is actually lying.