- Communication Style: The communication style of Indians tends to be polite. When speaking with those they are not close with, they may tell their counterparts what they want to hear to avoid conflict. Their communication style can come across as ambiguous and indirect. Indians may discuss conversation topics dialectically, and opinions or viewpoints are often subject to negotiation rather than arguing that their perspective is definitively correct.
- Indirect Communication: ‘No’ is understood to be harsh and open disagreement is likely to be interpreted as hostile or aggressive. Indians tend to give evasive refusals and disagreement is expressed indirectly. Indians may use phrases such as “maybe” or “I’ll do my best” as a way to express ‘no’. Moreover, ‘yes’ has various connotations that differ from the word’s usage in Australian culture. For example, an Indian may say ‘yes’ to indicate that they are listening to the speaker, or as a way to avoid conflict but will indicate disagreement or refusal through their body language. When communicating with an Indian, it is advisable to pay attention to what is not said, as the absence of agreement may, in fact, be an expression of disagreement. Direct communication is reserved for relationships with a high level of trust or for crucial situations.
- Refusals: Regarding questions and requests that require a yes or no answer, an Indian's preoccupation with saving face and being polite can automatically require them to answer ‘yes’ – whether they mean this or not. For an Indian, a flat ‘no’ may indicate that you wish to end the relationship and can lead to the loss of face for the other person. One way of navigating around the intricacies of face is to check for clarification several times using open-ended questions.
- Hierarchy: Norms of communication are in part dictated by the observed social hierarchy that underpins Indian society. Respect and deference to authority figures in and outside the home is prevalent in various ways, such as being sensitive about how one refuses requests as well as avoiding disclosure of contrary opinions.
- Language: India has a vast linguistic diversity, with 22 major languages and hundreds of regional dialects. Hindi is the most widely spoken language of India and English is considered to be a subsidiary official language, often reserved for national, political and commercial communication. It is important to be considerate of the linguistic diversity and history of India since many Indians understand their language, particularly their regional dialects, as a source of identity.
- Physical Contact: Indians prefer not to touch people when it can be avoided, but many touch someone’s arm or hand when speaking so long as they are the same gender. Body contact between the genders is kept minimal throughout most of India. For example, hugging and kissing is not customary in India.
- Personal Space: Indians generally respect each other’s personal space and an arm’s length of distance is common during interactions. This is usually a similar proximity to what Australians are familiar with. They may stand farther away from those who are of the opposite gender.
- Eye Contact: In general, sustained eye contact is not common and many Indians will keep eye contact minimal or avert their eyes from the opposite gender. Some women may avoid eye contact altogether. Direct eye contact is generally appropriate so long as you divert your gaze every so often.
- Whistling or Winking: Both these actions are considered sexually suggestive in India.
- Head Tilt: People may tilt their head to the side or shake it to both sides to indicate agreement and understanding. This head movement is similar to the Australian gesture indicating “I don’t know” with a shrug of the shoulders and tilting one’s head to the side.
- Nodding: Indians will often nod to acknowledge what is said. However, this does not always mean they understand or agree. It is more a gesture done out of politeness.
- Gestures: There are a number of noteworthy gestures to bear in mind. Pointing the index finger towards someone is associated with accusation. A more polite way to beckon or refer to someone is with your whole palm facing down. Another strong gesture is the placing of your hands on your hips, which suggests that you are angry or ready to argue.
- Ears: Holding or pulling on one’s own ears is a gesture that indicates sincerity or repentance.
- Head: The head is considered to be the holiest part of one’s body. Touching someone on the top of the head is considerably insensitive and offensive.
- Feet: Feet are thought to be the dirtiest part of the body, and displaying the soles of one’s feet or touching people with one’s feet is considered rude.