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June 16, 2024

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In the realm of interpersonal communication, the contrast between direct and indirect communication styles can lead to significant misunderstandings and frustrations. Many neurodivergent individuals observe that neurotypicals seem to speak in a kind of “code”β€”a language rich in subtext where meanings are often implied rather than explicitly stated. This article explores why neurotypicals might prefer this method of communication, the challenges it presents, and how understanding this dynamic can improve interactions between different communicative styles.

The Neurotypical Preference for Indirect Communication

  1. Social Harmony: One of the primary reasons neurotypicals use indirect communication is to preserve social harmony. By softening statements, using euphemisms, or implying messages, neurotypicals aim to avoid confrontation and maintain smooth social interactions. This approach is often about considering others’ feelings and the potential impact of direct words.
  2. Cultural Conditioning: In many cultures, indirect communication is taught from an early age as a way to be polite and respectful. Phrases like “Could you possibly…?” or “If you don’t mind…” are taught as softer alternatives to direct commands, which are often viewed as too blunt or aggressive.
  3. Social Hierarchy and Power Dynamics: Indirect communication can also be a tool for navigating social hierarchies and power dynamics. By speaking in a way that requires interpretation, individuals can convey messages without overtly asserting power or causing embarrassment to others, thus maintaining a more equitable social footing.
  4. Contextual Flexibility: Subtext allows neurotypicals to adjust their message based on the reaction of the listener in real-time. This flexibility can be advantageous in complex social environments where a straightforward approach might not be nuanced enough to capture the subtleties of human relationships.

Challenges Presented by Indirect Communication

  1. Misinterpretations: The biggest challenge of communicating in code is the high risk of misinterpretation. What one person thinks is a clear implication might be completely missed or differently understood by someone else, particularly by someone who is neurodivergent and prefers direct communication.
  2. Exclusion: People who are not familiar with or are unable to interpret subtextual cues can feel excluded from conversations and social interactions. This can lead to feelings of isolation and misunderstanding, particularly for those who do not naturally communicate in this way.
  3. Emotional Distance: While indirect communication can protect feelings in the short term, it can also create emotional distance between individuals. When people do not say what they truly think or feel, it can prevent genuine understanding and emotional connection.

Bridging the Communication Gap

  1. Awareness and Education: Both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals can benefit from becoming more aware of their own communication styles and the styles of others. Education about the differences can foster understanding and patience.
  2. Explicitness and Asking Questions: Encouraging a culture where it is acceptable to ask for clarification can help bridge the gap. Neurodivergent individuals can ask for explicit explanations when unsure, and neurotypicals can be encouraged to provide clearer answers.
  3. Adaptation and Compromise: In mixed communication settings, both sides can make efforts to adapt their natural styles. Neurotypicals might strive to be more direct when important decisions are being discussed, whereas neurodivergents might attempt to read between the lines in less critical situations.


Understanding the reasons behind indirect communication and the challenges it presents is essential for fostering better interactions across different communication styles. By promoting a greater awareness and willingness to adapt, both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals can enhance their ability to communicate effectively, ensuring that everyone can express themselves clearly and be understood.


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