The Merits of the Indirect Approach

Posted On: September 26, 2019

I studied mass communication (the different ways we communicate with the masses). In my journalism course, it was drummed into us not to say in 10 words what we can in one. Or in other words, the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) concept. This inevitably became an ethos I adopted for life. People tried to tell me how to be less indirect but these were just words at that point – I didn’t understand what they meant. Just because I am a woman? Why should I feel like a second-class citizen? Why should I change who I am?

It wasn’t until I suffered a devastating relationship breakup, and upon reading the book “The Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida, that I finally understand what the “indirect” approach meant and the value of it. In the indirect approach, one asks questions rather than tell/ command/ order/ nag/ inform. I now call it “planting seeds” (seeds grow into trees).

For instance:

  • “You shouldn’t do that.” vs. “Are you sure this serves you (or yr higher good)?”
  • “You’re a moron!” (name calling) vs. “Do you think that was a good idea?”
  • “I don’t understand why you did that?!” vs. “I like to understand you more.. what made you decide to do what you did?”

Essentially the indirect approach involves the use of questions to elicit thinking and reflection – way longer than the conversation that took place. I was already a coach but it wasn’t until then that the power of questions truly sunk in.

Indirect questions weren’t a poor or ineffective cousin of direct questions.

Indirect questions weren’t about being less-than somebody or gender-inequality.

Indirect questions were simply another way of communication (another tool in the toolkit) – and I (the trained communicator) was being naive in thinking I didn’t need to use/ learn/ master indirect communication!

I was the ineffective communicator – and my ego/ gender/ stubbornness was what stood in the way.

Over the years, with my clients, I have become much better at the use of indirect/ direct questions; the teaching of the hard/ soft approach to life; and the use of discretion/ discernment/ intuition to know what to say, when, and how.

I appreciate the science and art of being a counselor/ coach/ healer/ teacher and there really is no end to learning how to better support people in live their lives fully.

If you’re interested in my Art of Assertiveness workshop, please drop me an email and/ or subscribe to my mailing list at

#humility #humanity #communication #direct #indirect #feedback #questions#coaching #counseling #lifeislikethat

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than 10 years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.

Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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