Spanish Communication Styles

Communication within Spanish organisation is very often on a need to know basis. This is not necessarily defined by rank on an organisational chart, but more likely by networks of relationships.

A manager will inform those that he feels he should inform and this is very probably determined by strength of personal relationships. Departments do not, necessarily, freely communicate across departmental lines, as any such communication is more likely to be at a more senior level – peer to peer.

As with many Latin countries, communication tends to be predominantly oral rather than through the medium of the written word. Some cultures don’t believe things until they are in black and white, other cultures don’t really believe things until they hear them from people that they have a trusting relationship with. Spaniards tend to put the spoken before the written word. When sending something in a written format it is usually a good idea to follow it up with a phone call or a visit.

Verbal communication in Spain can often be viewed from a distance (particularly from a northern European distance) as theatrical and over-emotional. In Spain, if you feel something strongly, you show it. Overt signs of emotion do not imply lack of conviction or bluster and should be taken as the deeply felt belief of the speaker. The ability to use a large volume of language and a sincere manner are key management tools.

Humour is not used in very serious situations, where it can be seen as lacking the necessary decorum. However, in everyday situations it is important to be seen as good company and entertaining. Life is to be lived and enjoyed.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Spain has had a rollercoaster ride over the past twenty years from an economic perspective. The country went through a classic boom and bust scenario. The Spanish population felt the highs and lows of a rapid growth in living standards only to be then battered by a massive downturn leading to wage stagnation and record levels of unemployment – especially amongst the younger generation.

Things seem to be picking up however and the hope is that Spain has weathered the economic storm and is poised for a period of solid, manageable GDP growth which can help to drive the country into a more prosperous and sustainable future. Some painful lessons have been learnt the hard way and future economic consolidation will be built on stronger foundations going forward.
If you are thinking of doing business in Spain, the economic signals are positive and now is probably a good time to approach the market. The country has a highly educated workforce and a strong middle-class consumer base. As a key member of the European Union, Spain has well established trading links throughout Europe. Add this to its position as ‘the gateway to South America’ and its geographic proximity to North Africa and Spain starts to look like a highly attractive market.

However, if you are thinking of doing business with Spain it is extremely important that you do some homework before diving into any initial relationship-building activities. What are the key motivators of potential partners or clients in Spain? How are decisions arrived at and what is the best approach in terms of communication? Studying Spanish business culture will help you make the right impressions from the outset.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Spanish 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