Italian Communication Styles

Italians speak a lot. Good communication is loquacious and voluble. In order to convey a strongly felt point, it is important to use all possible powers of rhetoric to sway the listener.

Debate is an emotional issue where emphasis is highlighted through increased resort to emotionalism. Reserve or business detachment can be interpreted as signs of disinterest rather than professionalism. If you are engaged in the process and have strong opinions why not show them?

The combination of loquacity and visible emotion can often be misinterpreted by other cultures as lack of professionalism or even aggression. The ability to use language in such a way in Italy is, however, a key management tool and without the ability to veer towards theatricality, a manager’s armoury might seem a little light.

Formal presentations feature less heavily in Italian business life than they do in the USA or the UK and when given can seem a little stiff and even overly academic. Information would typically be disseminated in a less formal manner in smaller meetings.

Italians put more faith in information given to them orally by somebody with whom they have a strong, trusting relationship than any information sent in writing from afar. Discuss things in Germany in a meeting and a request for written confirmation of the ideas will invariably come as the meeting concludes: send something in writing to Italy and a request invariably comes back for a discussion of the issues.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Italy

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Despite Italy’s much publicised economic difficulties, following the global banking crisis, it remains a vibrant and attractive economy which not only has an active export base but which is also open to new products and new ideas from abroad. Doing business in Italy has proved highly successful for scores of global companies – and will continue to do so as the country continues to grow at a steady rate.

Italy has a well-educated and discerning consumer base as well as a vibrant manufacturing sector with thousands of SME’s producing a wide range of high-quality goods across a number of sectors. Both the Italian consumer base and SME companies need new products and services and are actively looking to work with international partners who can add value to their lives. If you are not doing business in Italy at the moment, you should start to scan the market for opportunities as soon as possible.

Italy represents an attractive opportunity but that does not mean everything will be plain sailing when you get there. Like all countries, Italy has a distinct and unique business culture. Don’t expect business in Italy to function like things do ‘back home’.

Italian business is very relationship oriented and who you know is incredibly important. How are you going to make those all-important first connections and, when you meet them, how will you make a good impression? Are you speaking to the right person within a prospect organisation? How effectively will you be able to communicate your ideas and what are the ‘hot-buttons’ in Italy? These issues could mean the difference between success and failure.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Italian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips