Monday, November 6, 2017


Different cultures conceptualize ideas in different ways, so you must be sure to communicate your point in a style that Americans will readily grasp. Today we’ll talk about how the European pattern conflicts with the American. Succeeding Tips will address other parts of the world.
For American style, think of a single straight arrow, going immediately to the essential point you want to make. Only later would supporting information be added. Like the “outline form” that Americans use when writing, the principal thesis (or topic sentence) is mentioned first, then sub-points follow, to clarify, illustrate or reinforce. Americans can easily follow an explanation in this form.

If you stood the American outline form on its head, you would have the European pattern. Unlike that straight American arrow, it would show the arrow’s shaft bent and veering off in various directions, and only after several such diversions would it finally return to a straight shaft ending in its point.
A European speaker might introduce his subject with this succession of thoughts: 1) “Throughout history we have seen that…  And 2) “Even as recently as the last century, France was the perfect example of…” Then 3) “I am reminded of what the Nobel Laureate XYZ said when he commented… Then “Statistically we see too that…” And FINALLY, “So the conclusion we draw, and my point today is…”

A European audience would listen attentively and appreciatively as they are drawn to the speaker’s point of view. But the American wonders impatiently when the speaker will “get to the point,” may feel a little lost, and might even be put off by the speaker’s “arrogance” as he flaunts his wide-ranging knowledge instead of just saying what he himself thinks!

The reverse happens, of course, when a European listens to an American in the same setting. To the European, an American speaker can seem too abrupt, his point insufficiently substantiated, and his image also “arrogant,” implying that he alone is a sufficient expert to claim this point of view!
So when conveying ideas, remember how the wrong approach can cause confusion, misunderstanding and even personal rejection. Tailor your style to your audience. And understand the tendencies of your own culture to interfere with that pattern.