Communicating the American way

Numerous economic collaborations and overseas projects exist between American companies and corporations abroad. However, these collaborations don’t always run smoothly, not least due to cultural differences in general and to different modes of communication in particular. In today’s blog post, you’ll learn important fundamental tips on how to deal with your American counterpart.

Americans tend toward a positive communication style, they appear friendly, self-confident and optimistic in many cases, and they’re often happy to approach other people. Relatively casual interactions prevail in their everyday work lives, and courtesy plays an important role. So don’t be surprised when your business partner greets you exuberantly. The goal of expressing oneself in such a way is to create a pleasant atmosphere.

Choose your words carefully

When communicating with Americans, you’re sure to quickly become acquainted with their predilection for verbal embellishments and exaggerations. In contrast to certain cultures’ objective communication styles, many Americans express themselves very ornately, and they use their choice of words to communicate a high amount of enthusiasm. It’s consequently important for non-Americans to assess the meaning of certain words correctly. For instance, a significant difference exists with regard to valuations. If in the course of your American business dealings you’re confronted with performance evaluations or feedback, keep the following points in mind.cross-cultural training, cross-cultural training USA, USA, communication, courtesy, small talk

The word “good” rarely means more than just mediocre in the USA. If something is referred to as “very good”, non-Americans may easily consider this high praise. In actuality, the American “very good” commonly means not much more than “okay”. With expressions like “great”, we inch closer toward what other cultures might refer to as “good”. Words like “excellent” and “outstanding” are commonly heard in everyday life in America, and they imply that something is very good. You can thus see that Americans tend to be very generous when it comes to expressing enthusiasm.

Small talk as the key to success

Thanks to their extroverted communication style, Americans are considered good small-talkers. A good ground rule for successful small talk is to actively listen. Show interest and wait for the right moment to respond. To keep up the conversation, it’s recommended to ask open questions rather than to formulate statements. This will prompt your counterpart to reply, and it’ll help avoid unpleasant pauses. On the business side of things, even seemingly trivial chitchat can lead to new business relationships or to important contacts being made. Networking is very important in the USA, so take advantage of the opportunities that small talk has to offer.

Suitable small-talk topics in the USA include the weather, hobbies and food. Since Americans tend to place a lot of value on status symbols, things like nice cars are also suitable topics. Sports work as well; a little basic knowledge about football or baseball is sure to impress your counterpart. However, when engaging in small talk with Americans, stay on inconsequential topics. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, minorities and social classes. Small talk is an opportunity to loosen up and make contact and should accordingly be mundane. Although status symbols and wealth are often openly displayed, money and incomes are generally not discussed directly.

And finally, one more tip regarding nonverbal communication: Gestures and facial expressions vary between different cultures, including the sign used to signalize that you wish someone all the best. In Germany, for instance, the thumbs are pressed, while in the USA, it’s common to cross one’s fingers. You may accordingly hear the phrase “I’ll keep my fingers crossed.” These are, of course, only a few important fundamentals when it comes to communicating with Americans. But keep in mind that not every American is alike. These characterizations are just general tips. You can get a deeper insight into this topic by taking Eidam & Partner’s cross-cultural training on the USA.


Andreas Riedel

About Andreas Riedel

Ich habe Tourismuswirtschaft und Europa-Studien/Kulturwissenschaften studiert. In beiden Fachrichtungen durfte ich mich auf ganz unterschiedliche Art und Weise bereits mit dem Thema Interkulturelle Kommunikation beschäftigen. Seit Februar 2013 bin ich nun Interkultureller Berater bei Eidam & Partner. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 70 Zielländern.
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