Direct and Indirect Communication

We explain what direct and indirect communication is, how they differ and multiple examples. Also, collective communication.

Two people use direct communication by talking while another uses indirect communication through a telephone.Two people use direct communication by talking while another uses indirect communication through a telephone.
In indirect communication it requires an intermediation, which does not exist in direct communication.

What is direct and indirect communication?

Direct communication and indirect communication are two of the essential forms of communication. Their difference lies in the presence or not of an intermediary during the communicative act.: while in direct communication the sender and receiver exchange information without the need for intermediation, in indirect communication there is some artificial instance that allows or facilitates communication.

For example, when two people talk on the street, they communicate directly through verbal language; On the other hand, if those same people write a text message to each other, they will be communicating through a digital writing system, that is, indirectly.

These two types of communication occur on a daily basis in different human environments, but Each one has different characteristics that make it more or less advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the context.. Thus, direct communication is clearer and more immediate, but requires the physical presence of both interlocutors, while indirect communication can occur in the absence of one of them, but in exchange it sacrifices clarity and simplicity.

These differences can be summarized as follows:

Direct communication Indirect communication
It requires the presence of the sender and the receiver in the same place and at the same time. It can occur in the absence of the sender or receiver, over distances or time periods.
It does not require intermediaries. It generally requires some intermediary instance or system.
It is immediate, clear and evident, and if not, it allows correction and reformulation. It is given on a delayed basis and is subject to a certain margin of interpretation by the recipient, which is why it lends itself to misunderstandings.
It is mainly verbal, oral and interpersonal, although it may use non-verbal codes, such as gestures and tones. It is mainly verbal, written and adapts to pre-established rules, so it tends to be more rigid and less versatile.
It occurs more or less spontaneously, disorganized and personal. It is normally produced in a more formal and orderly manner.
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See also: Verbal and non-verbal communication

Examples of direct communication

Some examples of direct communication are:

  • A buyer haggles with a seller at a popular market.
  • A person asks a passerby the time.
  • A tourist asks a police officer for instructions to return to his hotel.
  • A researcher gives a lecture to the interested public.
  • A flight attendant explains to passengers on a flight how to fasten their seat belts.
  • A group of workers debate at an assembly.
  • A university professor gives a master class to her present students.
  • A couple debates which movie to see at the cinema.
  • A suspect is questioned by two police officers.

Examples of indirect communication

Passengers on a train read books.Passengers on a train read books.
Indirect communication is mainly verbal, written and adapts to pre-established rules.

Some examples of indirect communication are:

  • A company sends an email to its clientele.
  • A man abroad mails a postcard to his relatives.
  • A reader begins a novel written a hundred years ago.
  • A friend asks another friend out via text message.
  • A person is surveyed through a phone call.
  • A son leaves his mother a note on the refrigerator.
  • A telegraphy station sends a ship a message in Morse code.
  • A salesperson talks to a customer over a building’s intercom.

Collective communication

Collective communication It is that of the media, whose sender is unique and its receiver is normally massive. or multitudinous. It is a form of unilateral communication, that is, one in which reciprocity on the part of the recipients is difficult. For example: television news broadcasts, the broadcast of radio soap operas or advertising messages on printed billboards.

Collective communication is characterized by being:

  • Unilateralsince it does not allow immediate or equivalent responses from the recipient.
  • Crowdsince the receivers are usually massive.
  • Formal and institutionalthat is, impersonal and directed to a group of people, not to one of them specifically.
  • Technology-basedsince it takes advantage of different mass transmission formats, such as television, radio, the press or the Internet.
  • Persuasivesince it captures the attention of the public to influence their behavior to a certain extent, whether for commercial, electoral, informational purposes, among others.
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Continue with: Mass media


  • Binetti, J.M. (2005). “Direct and indirect communication. Two modes of Kierkegaardian discourse. Philosophical analogy: journal of philosophy, research and dissemination. (Vol. 19, No. 2). pp. 83-102.
  • Fernández, C. (1994). “From direct communication to indirect communication.” MK marketing + sales (No. 79). p. 46.