American Communication Styles

Communication styles in business in the States are determined by many of the approaches to business we have already described above.

The desire to debate issues directly and openly leads Americans to be seen by some cultures as aggressive and even rude. Coded speech and verbosity is often seen as time wasting and in time pressured corporate USA that is a crime.

Thus, when an impasse is reached in meeting situations the reaction is often to address it directly and with feeling. This direct, robust debate can often be viewed by more harmony-seeking cultures as signalling the breakdown of meaningful discussions and as the signal to try to abandon the interaction – whereas in the States it is seen positively and as a sign of definite progress.

Paradoxically, on first introductions American can seem very friendly, polite and solicitous of your well being which seems to be at odds with the verbal behaviour exhibited half an hour later in the meeting. This overt friendliness (‘Have nice day!’, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ etc.) should be taken for what it is – part of the protocol of the language and not as an attempt at establishing a life-long friendship.

Although coded speech and over-verbosity are frowned upon, the latest management speak is often to the fore in business dealings which can make Americans sound extremely jargonistic – almost to the point of obscuring the real message.

Americans are much more open in conversation about private affairs than many European cultures and the converse of this is that Americans will often, quite naively, ask very personal questions at an early stage in a relationship which may be perceived by some people as intrusive.

Technology is increasingly relied on and email is the normal methodology of communication. Email messages are expected to be short and to the point – often omitting both the greeting line and the closing line. Do not misinterpret this short form communication as rudeness or annoyance – it’s just viewed as a quick and efficient approach.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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One of the paradoxes about the States is that we all know it from the media, films and music and we all form an internal image of the country and the way things are done there. The problem is that when you start to do business in the USA, you find that your internal image is a far cry from the reality you encounter on the ground. We go to the states with a million preconceptions, only to find them all challenged during the cut and thrust of normal business activities.

People often arrive in the States with the notion that it is the land of free-wheeling capitalism, where everything goes and red tape has been eradicated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doing business in the States is as complex and challenging as in any other new international market. You need to do the same amount of initial research and strategising when entering the USA market as you do anywhere else in the world.

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – many have and suffered the consequences.

At Global Business Culture, we are often amazed that clients feel they need to gain a better understanding of Chinese or Brazilian business culture but that the USA will somehow be easy or in some way ‘business culture free.’ Like all countries, the USA has a distinct and formidable business culture which drives most strategy and day-to-day interactions. Of course, there are some distinct regional differences but there are also States-wide attitudes that are well worth understanding and which will make your business dealings in the States more successful.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of business culture in the USA 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