Negotiations in the USA

Fundamental ideals, cultural peculiarities and personal communication styles influence the course of negotiations, among other things. That’s why we cover this topic and go into detail about the particularities of the target country of the USA in today’s blog post.

First some basic facts: The atmosphere during negotiations in the USA is typically pleasant but goal-oriented. Small talk and humor often come into play in the warming-up phase, and the transition to the actual contents of the negotiation comes relatively fast. In general, less focus is placed on formalities than it is in some other countries. Communication in negotiations tends to be direct but rather informal. First names are commonly used.

What does “catch-22” mean?

You may encounter the term “catch-22” over the course of negotiations in the USA. This essentially describes a hopeless situation in which no side can win. The term can be traced back to the satirical anti-war novel by Joseph Heller published in 1961.

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When it comes to negotiation styles, Americans are considered tough fighters who very directly and resolutely home in on their goals. Don’t let the seemingly casual interactions fool you. Always keep in mind that Americans are mostly informal but simultaneously highly professional.

Due to their strong focus on results, American negotiation partners can often seem impatient to others; they want to work efficiently and see results as soon as possible. While some cultures prefer thorough planning and direct discussions of facts in negotiations, Americans often appear more flexible.

Tips and tricks

Under no circumstances should you dismiss the way many Americans strive for a quick solution as unimportant. Try to streamline processes and decision-making channels on your side to the greatest extent possible in order to avoid unnecessary delays. If a relatively long waiting period is unavoidable either before or after a negotiation, you should explain to your American counterpart as well as possible why the delay is occurring [this creates understanding].

A little trick to sate this typical hunger for quick progress is to inform your American partner not only about major advances/milestones, but also about small steps that you would likely keep to yourself under other circumstances. This gives the other side the feeling that things are moving forward and advancing quickly.

At the same time, Americans tend to be seen as fair negotiation partners. While they may filter certain data to achieve their goals, they seldom deliberately make false statements. Having a fair-play mindset, most would rather achieve a win-win situation than simply drub their counterparts. Their own outcome is certainly at the fore as a matter of principle, but Americans are considered creative when it comes to developing new [common] solutions that both sides can ideally benefit from.

All in all, you should prepare well for the topic and for your negotiation partner. Behave pragmatically but not too seriously and keep the dress code in mind. Don’t let the seemingly casual atmosphere fool you. This will give you a good foundation for successful negotiations in the USA.

Are you interested in any other topics related to doing business in the USA? You’ll find all the information you need on this exciting target country in our cross-cultural training on the USA.


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About Andreas Riedel

I studied tourism management and European studies/cultural studies. In both subjects I took a close look at cross-cultural communication from different angels. I have been working as a key account manager at Eidam & Partner since 2013. We offer worldwide services related to cross-cultural communication, such as cross-cultural training, cross-cultural coaching, eLearning and preparation for international assignments for more than 80 target countries.
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