Direct Communication: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Communication Styles
  • 0:40 Direct Communication
  • 3:54 Which Communication…
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Ashley D. Manker
Expert Contributor
Steven Scalia

Steven completed a Graduate Degree is Chartered Accountancy at Concordia University. He has performed as Teacher's Assistant and Assistant Lecturer in University.

In this lesson, we will discuss direct and indirect communication and how those two styles differ. We will also discuss the pros and cons of direct communication and why it is used so often in the workplace.

Communication Styles

Effective communication is essential to a happy and productive work environment. The people within a workplace of any size need to feel that there are strong lines of communication that exist within the organization. Managers and employees should be allowed to speak to each other and receive information from each other in useful and supportive ways.

A communication style is the way we share information with others. Although we may like to think that we say exactly what we mean and are understood and well received, that may not always be the case. How well our messages come across can depend on the style of communication we use.

Direct Communication

Direct communication is speech that conveys clear messages or that clearly directs actions. Direct communication is often used in the workplace to ensure clarity regarding who has the authority to give orders and what the orders are. Direct communication may be used when there is no room for discussion or compromise. This style usually doesn't allow the listener to respond with an opinion or viewpoint. For example, your supervisor may say to you, 'You need to get to work on time every day. You must not be late again.' That's pretty direct, right? There's little to no room for misunderstanding what your supervisor means.

Consider how this message might differ if the supervisor chose to convey this message more indirectly, in a way that did not communicate an absolutely clear message or order you to do a clearly specified thing. Suppose that your supervisor says to you, 'Please be mindful of your arrival time every day.' You may be aware of the fact that you are sometimes 15 minutes or so late to work, and your supervisor's words may indicate to you that she doesn't like you being late. But, she has gone about conveying her message to you by way of indirect communication in a way that's somewhat vague or that only implies ideas.

You could very well interpret your supervisor's statement that you should 'be mindful of your arrival time every day' as a suggestion to be aware of exactly when you arrive, and perhaps to make up any time that you miss by working later in the day, for example. The less clear, indirect message from the supervisor may be more pleasant to receive, but it does not communicate a concrete or obvious idea or directive.

People who are direct communicators often tell it like it is. Because of this, they can sometimes appear to be argumentative, aggressive, or just plain rude. Keep in mind that I used the word 'appear.' It is certainly the case that direct communicators may be very nice, caring people. Their behavior may be driven by the desire to achieve an objective or by a passion for what they do.

Consider an example in which two coworkers, Kendra and Juan, are trying to finish up a project that they will have to present to their manager soon. Kendra may say to Juan, 'Get the proposal conclusion done by tonight so that we can present it tomorrow.' This statement would be an example of direct communication because it conveys an unambiguous message and clearly directs an action. It's possible that Juan may not like Kendra's blunt order. At the same time, he may appreciate that he understands exactly what Kendra's goal is and what part of the job she wants him to complete.

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Additional Activities

Direct Communication - An Essay Prompt:

The following Essay Prompt will allow you to put into practice your knowledge of Direct Communication in a real-life business context. There will be a heavy emphasis on determining whether Direct Communication is appropriate or not.


You are the President of a technology company that produces high-end laptops and tablets. Your latest product line of tablets, Power Plus, is the most popular tablet brand in the United States. You noticed that in one of your factories, the inventory shrinkage has been disproportionately high in the past quarter. When you visit the factory, employees felt intimidated by your presence but nonetheless were performing good work. You reviewed security tapes and were unable to catch any employees stealing; however, you know that this is the most likely explanation for the inventory shrinkage.

Since you don't have any proof and do not want to appear as a President who does not trust your employees, you issue a memo to the factory's employees surrounding the inventory shrinkage problem, stating that "We need to be extra careful that we do not misplace inventory." You opted for a more vague, softer tone (i.e., indirect communication) in hopes that the culprits would understand the message while not offending any other employees.

The next month, the shrinkage doubles compared to the previous month. This is now a major issue since the value of the inventory being stolen is material.


Using your knowledge of Direct Communication, write a short memo of a minimum of 100 words to employees that clearly communicates the message. In addition, write a short paragraph (maximum 50 words) on what adverse reaction the President can expect for the memo.


Potential adverse effects:

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