3 Tips for Better commutation with Americans in Professional situations

Communicating effectively in our own culture is a constant challenge. In every culture and country there are effective and bad communicators. Communicating with people from other cultures and often in a language not your own inevitably makes this task even more complex.

Here are what I consider the 3 important aspects of the US communication style that need to be taken into consideration:

1 – Getting straight to the point

I know it may sound cliché but for Americans time is money. So be careful of their “time” priority factor. Getting to the point is vital in professional relationships and communication. This will mean using only the most essential details and eliminating unnecessary context. Think K.I.S.S (Keep it short and sweet). Think “less is more”. As general rule meetings, presentations, and negotiations are shorter in the US. You will lose attention and interest of Americans by drowning them with too many details and too much data. Try to think in terms of “What is in it for them” justifying why they should  listen to you. In the American business world your communication effectiveness will be judged by your ability to communicate elegantly your ideas and concepts i.e. Concisely, Simply and Precisely.

2 – Think and communicate inductively, not deductively

If you are European you probably have a deductive style of reasoning. Our education systems are largely responsible for our reasoning processes. The Cartesian method or the Hegelian dialectic have left an enduring imprint on Europeans and their necessity to build solid arguments.  Americans will focus on practicalities. At school in the US we are taught that a good paragraph  and/or an efficient presentation can be summarized in 3 steps “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.”

Building an argument or case for an important presentation or discussion with a logical, step-by-step  method, with lots of background and theory works great in France and Germany. However this type of communication process could frustrate many American listeners. If you want to capture and retain your American audience’s attention starting by the end with the recommendations is often a good strategy. Communicating  in this way with self-confidence and with a dash of humour at key moments will certainly  appeal to the pragmatic American mindset and their need for getting to the essential message as quickly as possible.

3 – Understand American enthusiasm

People from the United States tend to communicate enthusiastically. Working with Americans, you will frequently hear the words ‘good job’, ‘great’, ‘awesome’ and ‘outstanding’. This sometimes makes it complicated for other cultures to understand what Americans really mean, especially when receiving feedback (was what I did really fantastic or awesome?). On many  occasions in sales situations  Europeans have misinterpreted their American prospect’s comment ‘interesting’ of their product or solution as being hooked and ready to buy or commit, only to learn a few days or a week later that the American prospect had abandoned any  intention of buying their products or services.    Enthusiasm is big part of the US culture. Reading between the lines of the whole message is often necessary. If you come from a less enthusiastic and lower key communication culture, such as Sweden or Finland, you will find that removing the intensifiers (fantastic, amazing, incredible), will bring their message closer to your communication style. Inversely, you might want to ratchet up the Enthusiasm in your message in order to synchronize with your American colleagues.

Having a solid level in English (B2+) is a prerequisite and foundations for smooth and successful communications with your US colleagues, customers and suppliers.  Adjusting your communication style using the 3 tips above will help you enormously when interacting with Americans in a business environment.  Obviously, applying these tips will require a mind shift for many of you, and like any new habit or behaviour it will also require, in the beginning and above all preparation, discipline and practice .

Let us know what you think. Or if you wish to learn more about how to communicate more effectively with Americans contact us!

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