Here's a short and masterful example of indirect communication taken from a recent "Roseanne" TV program. In this scene, Rose-anne's husband leaves just as her mother, who has come to visit, walks into the kitchen:
"He's not working, is he?" asks the mother."He's working," says Roseanne.
"Well, I'm glad, because your father worries . . . especially about your sister."
"He doesn't have to worry."
"Well, someone has to! She's unmarried . . . heaven forbid that she turns out to be like your Aunt Dale, who teaches P.E. . . .
"Speaking of Aunt Dale, how is Uncle Shirley?"
"Also your father is concerned because your sister lives in a building that needs to be fumigated. But I am her mother; it's not my job to tell her what to do."
"Oh, I get it, but it is YOUR job to tell ME what to tell her to do!"
(Roseanne's sister walks into the kitchen. Her mother changes the subject.)
"Yes, I am sure that petunias are perennials!"
"Jackie, Mom was just talking about you. Now you get to listen while she talks about me. (Roseanne leaves the kitchen.)
"So, are we going to talk about Roseanne?"
"Certainly not! It's just that your FATHER is worried about her - she seems so tired all the time!"
"You have been here a grand total of one hour! How do you know how tired she is?"
"A mother knows. . . ."
Roseanne enters the room and asks - "What did you find out about me?"
"You are very tired," says the sister.
As this TV segment illustrates, do you ever find yourself speaking to one person about a second person, sometimes even when the second person is present? Do you ever assign your feelings to someone else ("It's your father who worries")? These are just two examples of indirect communication - a style that obscures the personal feelings of a sender and leads to confusion and misunderstandings in relationships.
People also lose their personal power and effectiveness when they do not clearly, directly and accurately state their positions to others.
Consider other examples of indirect communication:
-Posing questions when you have a need. Say you're taking a trip with someone and you ask, "Are you getting hungry?" What you mean is, "I'm starved and I would love to stop for lunch."
Or you may ask your child, "Don't you think it's time to go to bed?" and what you mean is, "I'm tired and it IS time for you to go to bed."
-Addressing the wall rather than the specific person you have in mind. "People in this house just don't care whether it's clean or not" or "Nobody pays any attention to me."
-Not completing ideas. "He isn't very . . .YOU know." "As you can see . . . well, it's obvious."
-Mindreading. Assuming you have a crystal ball and can get inside the mind of another: "I know what you're thinking (or really mean)" or "This is what he was going through."
Or assuming other people have crystal balls and can read your mind. "She knows what I think (or really mean)" or "He can tell you what I went through."
-Using vague pronouns such as "people," "some folks," "they" or "it" that cover your real feelings or intentions: "WE had a wonderful time." What you mean is, "I had a good time," but notice you're speaking for the other person, who might not have had the good time you did.
"EVERYBODY says this is a good movie." What you mean is, "I'd like to go to this movie because I've heard it's good."
"It might help if Jim were more cordial when he answers the door." You mean, "I get irritated with Jim when he is so abrupt."
-By far the most insidious pronoun to get in the way of speaking for yourself and taking responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and needs is the word "you." Watch how this little pest, which is often accusatory, can get in your way.
"YOU'RE insensitive," which means "I'm hurt you didn't call when you were going to be late."
"YOU don't love me," which means "I don't feel loved."
"YOU'RE lazy," which means "I wish you'd pick up after yourself more often."
The secret to putting your feelings, needs and opinions into words involves using "I" language - responses that start with the pronoun "I" and put the focus on you rather than on other people.
Using "I" language, you claim ownership of your perceptions and your actions: "I think . . ," "I feel . . ," "I want . . ," I need . . ." Your messages describe your own experiences and any listener knows that you, not others, are responsible for your thoughts, feelings and deeds.
By converting to "I" language you can eliminate much of the guesswork in communicating. You can quit hinting. Or hiding. You can get many things you want. And you can begin to experience the exhilarating freedom of being yourself.