Germans define realistic as understanding reality. To understand the present, is to understand how it became so. Germans expect a clear explanation of the path from the past to the present. A realist understands the history of a given situation.
For Americans to be realistic includes understanding what is possible. The possible is determined not only by present circumstances, but also by the ability to shape a new future. Forward movement often demands moving away from the past.
Germans often get the impressions that American visions are not grounded or rooted in an accurate understanding of the status quo. Americans want to move forward without first establishing their starting point and direction. They “fly off into the wrong direction.”
Too much emphasis on the present as a product of the past is seen as backward-looking. A vision of the future, forward movement, often demands moving away from the past. From the American point of view their German colleagues can get stuck in the past.
Advice to Germans
Provide the historical context. But let your listeners know beforehand that you need to tell the full story. Your aim is for all to have a common understanding of the present situation before you can recommend how best to move forward together.
Advice to Americans
Try to hold back your natural American tendancy to jump from the present into the future. Take the time to explain the context of the situation. This will lengthen the presentation. That’s ok. Germans want depth and breadth. Do your homework and demonstrate it. It will be worth it.