Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. When working with Americans, have you ever felt lost? Like you don’t know where to place yourself in the hierarchy. Everyone seems friendly, informal and relaxed. But is that the truth? If you don’t have the “cultural communication decoder” it’s hard to know what’s appropriate.
Watch this episode now!
Today, you’ll learn 3 essential communication codes for doing business with Americans.
One HUGE cultural code is small talk. We make small talk with everybody. As one student in my Successful Small Talk Course said “All this small talk is not normal for me. I don’t know how much I should say!” To feel more sure, get my Small Talk Starter Box here.
And before we start, a little note. There are 325 million Americans, so it’s impossible to generalize about how everyone acts. If everyone was the same, it would be a little scary…
These tips are what is often the case, but culture also depends on regional culture, company culture, individual style, and even how you’re feeling that day. But these are situations you’ll probably come across when you do business with Americans.
“Oh, call me Ben!”
Siri, what does it mean when your American boss says “Call me Ben!”?
“This does not mean your boss is your friend. It means that he doesn’t want you to call him Mr. Johnson because that’s too formal for many Americans, even in business.”
In some big companies, like the UPS, it’s official policy that everyone, from receptionist up to CEO call all colleagues by their first names. One study from Pennsylvania State University even found that bosses and workers have better relationships when they call each other by their first names.
So should you just start by calling your client or your boss Jennifer or Jason? No. Start with their last name to be safe “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Ankerson” and you’ll likely get in response “Oh, call me Jennifer” (Except if her name is Lisa, or Michelle, or something like that. You get the point).
“Let me ask you a question…”
Siri, what if my client interrupts my pitch? Should I be offended?
“Probably not. It probably means they have a question, or want to join the conversation. Interruptions can be a good thing, sometimes.”
This is paradoxical, because when we’re kids, we learn that it’s rude to interrupt. But in reality, Americans do interrupt. Since American society is loosely structured around hierarchy, seniority, specialization, and social status don’t often dictate who can contribute to the conversation, or when.
Everyone has the right to express their opinion, it’s written in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution!
So some business discussions may feel like open forum, informal chit chats. They’re still serious business talks, but there may be a lot of interrupting, often starting with “Let me ask you a question…”, which sounds like /lemme asskyuh uh question/.
“Let’s cut to the chase and get to the point”
Siri, what does “cut to the chase” mean?
“It means “get to the point.”
OK…And what does “get to the point” mean?
“Get to the point means go to the essential message.”
You’ve probably heard the expression “Time is money”. It means your American clients and partners don’t want you to waste their precious time.
So if you’re pitching an idea, a product, or you want someone to do something for you, start with how this is going to benefit them. Even if it’s a formal business meeting, they don’t want to know the entire history of your company, product or idea.
Maybe you’ve seen the acronym WIIFM in business: “What’s in it for me?” What’s the interesting part for your listener?
So if you hear “Let’s cut to the chase” /less cuh tuh tchayss/ or “Could you get to you the point?” /cuhdjuh gehtuh thuh poyn/, it means that you’re giving too many uninteresting details. Don’t be destabilized. They just want to know “What’s in it for me?”
There are a lot of benefits for you in today’s lesson, so be sure to watch it:
Now, what about you?
What’s one American communication code that you don’t understand?
Tell me in the comments, so I can decode it for you!
And to get 3 essential lessons for easier small talk in English, sign up for my top small talk lessons and free worksheets.
And of course subscribe to my channel, so you get a new English lesson each week! Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!
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