Doing business in Italy

Newcomers on a business trip in Italy may feel that they are verbally stranded in meetings. Shed your ideas of polite restraint and plunge into the fray.

The seemingly innate desire to talk is typical of Italian business meetings. Italians embrace a fairly lively communication style. They display enthusiastic gestures, facial expressions and emotions.

This expressive style, which always includes a little self-staging, includes simultaneous, loud speaking, which makes it significantly more difficult for others to keep a grasp on the conversation.

If you have a more restrained manner of speech, free of interruptions from either side, the Italians may mistake your efforts at politeness for disinterest. They measure interest by spontaneous questions. In the absence of such interjections, their own flow of speech will not be easily interrupted, so you may feel left by the wayside if you do not assert yourself.

Creativity defines the meeting

In Italy, creativity and the power of ideas dominate meeting agendas, which can quickly expand a topic. Within a few minutes, the most diverse strategies for solving a problem arise, and are just as quickly discarded. It is then back to what has been said in the first place. 

It is also customary to spontaneously get more people into the meeting, or have two meetings arranged one after the other merge together to form a major event. Individuals leave the room or several small discussion groups are formed.

Italian speakers show off their eloquence and there is often a tendency for unnerving hair splitting. Everyone is entitled to interfere and contribute their opinion. It is therefore advisable to make some new allies in advance that constructively support the proposal of new ideas.

Closeness and chaos

Also noteworthy is the low social distance. Italians like to stand, sit or discuss matters face to face, quite literally. For others who feel more comfortable with an arm’s length of personal space, close sitting together often feels strange.

All in all, when going to a meeting with Italians, become culture fit first to reach the best possible outcome!

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