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.


This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture

Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working.  We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.

This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in The USA only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.

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