Context

German Approach

Because the German yes involves a high degree of commitment, before granting it they request a lot of background information. For three reasons:

First, it helps them to determine whether the agreement could have negative effects on them, their work or their team. Second, if they say yes, they want to fulfill their part of the agreement.

Third, because Germans do little to no follow-up during the time-span of the agreement, the better they understand the overall context, the better they can fulfill their commitment. The term is front-loading.

Patterns

American Approach

Because follow-up in the U.S. context is frequent, and because agreements can increase and decrease in priority, Americans enter into agreements quickly and without discussing their overall context in great detail.

The parties of an agreement are in constant communication with each other. Full context information need not be communicated all at once during the very first conversation. The term is back-loading.

Patterns

German View

Germans are surprised when Americans ask them to enter into an agreement without having first provided the context information necessary to make a decision.

They then experience that Americans become impatient with their questions. Depending on the sensitivity of the agreement, a German might suspect that an attempt is being made to gain their yes without them fully understanding the potential effects.

American View

When a German colleague requests to be too much background information, Americans can get the impression that they are overly conscientious, risk-averse, even mistrustful.

An American would wonder: „If we have an agreement, why does my German colleague need so much information up-front. Let‘s get started. We‘ll be in constant communication with each other as we proceed.“

Advice to Germans

Your American colleagues expect a high level of communication during the time span of an agreement. They do not need to know the whole story up-front. Provide what they need in order to get started. If and when they require additional information, you will hear from them.

Be prepared to communicate on a more frequent basis. If an American provides you with too little context information in order for you to make a decision, kindly indicate this. Tell them that you simply are conscientious, that you want to get it right the first time. 

Advice to Americans

Go into detail with your German colleague about the broader context of the agreement. Don‘t wait for their questions to come. Volunteer the information up-front.

And don‘t be surprised when your German colleagues go into great detail with you. They‘re neither long-winded nor pedantic. They want you to be fully informed so that you can make the proper decision, and should you agree, to execute to the best of your ability.

 

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