Communication is words. Spoken. Written. Emails. Telephone. Video calls. Meetings. Reports. Presentations. Here are some differences:
Germans are direct. They say what they mean. And they mean what they say. Germans do not use euphemisms to soften a message. They believe in using unambiguous language and getting to the point. For Germans direct communication is honest, transparent, efficient. Being direct reduces the risk that people will not understand each other.
Americans approach important topics carefully. Euphemisms help to communicate uncomfortable messages. Ambiguity can be helpful. Depending on the sensitivity of the topic, Americans will address it indirectly. In the American context indirect communication is considered both polite and effective. Most importantly it maintains the dialogue in order to deepen it.
Work vs. Person
Germans separate the professional from the personal. Work colleagues can disagree, even argue, about the substance of an issue. This, however, does not have a negative affect on their working relationship.
Critical thinking, stating one‘s opinions in a straightforward manner, debating the strengths and weaknesses of a given point, are in the German culture signs of professionalism. And a sign of respect for the other person.
Americans connect the professional with the personal. Statements made about a proposal, a concept, or work results are by definition statements about that person‘s competence, experience, skills.
To say that engineering work produced was poor, is to say that it was a poor engineer who produced it. And in the American business context there can be consequences for those who do poor work. American colleagues seldom challenge each other in a direct, vigorous or threatening way.
In the German business context small talk is small, meaning short in duration. The Germans prefer to transition quickly to issues of substance, from small talk to big talk. They see little value in talking about the weather, sports or what they did in their most recent vacation. Germans get personal in non-business settings.
In the American business context small talk is an essential part of communication. It gets communication going. Small talk also allows each person to get a sense for the overall atmosphere. Americans seldom jump directly into the substance of the communication. Business is always personal. Americans get personal in both business and non-business settings.
When Germans engage in discussions they seek out topics which lead to lively discussions. Germans are intelligent and well-informed. They enjoy intellectual give and take. And since this means a difference of opinions, Germans purposely choose controversial topics.
And they are critically-minded. Germans look for weak points in an argument, for things that do not work, which are suboptimal or just plain wrong. So the discussion inevitably involves Germans stating their critical opinion about some thing, person or people.
Americans purposely choose non-controversial topics. Divisive subjects are seldom raised. And although the age of the cocktail party is long past, Americans still know the answer to the question What are three subjects you don‘t bring up at a cocktail party? Sex, religion and politics.
The American logic is to avoid any tension which could damage a personal or working relationship. They, therefore, seek out commonalities. Americans look for reasons to relate, not separate. From their perspective it is difficult to argue about the weather.
Unsolicited means not requested. Germans give unsolicited advice. Usually it is criticism. However, in most cases the critique is accurate and helpful. In some cases Germans simply want to show that they know better. Mostly Germans give unsolicited advice because they sincerely want to be helpful. And they are.
Americans seldom give unsolicited advice. Even among family and close friends they give advice only after having been asked. And even then, depending on how sensitive the topic is, they communicate their advice in carefully worded language. Americans also want to be helpful. But first you need to maintain the relationship.