In all the cases above people managed to communicate honne messages, even when they felt they couldn't do so directly. They did this through indirect messages, which were spoken to one party but intended for someone else listening to the conversation (as in both Molly and Theo's cases). From Molly's example you can be aware that the comments your host family makes to someone else about the homestay in front of you, provide useful barometers for gauging the family's real feelings about you. Both positive and negative feelings may be expressed this way, including even specific irritations about the homestay guest. A non-Japanese guest may be offended by this situation, feeling that they are being treated as if they were not there, or they may "tune out" the conversation as irrelevant because the situation is tatemae. Yet a tatemae situation can be a goldmine for honne information if you can become attuned to indirect messages.

So, listen up! Anything that is said about you to others when you are present may actually be an indirect message intended for you. Such communication often involves very personal messages, even though it is directed to someone else in a public situation. Or a third party may be used to communicate messages about a problem, like the complaint the homestay coordinator passed on to Peter from his host family about his stereo being too loud, and the complaint made to Elena. The okaasan's intricate communication in front of the neighborhood guest shows how adept people can be at these kinds of messges. If the person communicating the indirect message is drunk, this ups the honne ante even more, (since being drunk gives one license to speak honne in Japan).

Indirect communication is a common channel for conveying both positive and negative messages. It is frequently used when a message might be embarrassing or stressful if communicated directly. As a result, praise, appreciation, criticism, and requests are often communicated indirectly by making use of public situations or outsiders.