For Germans a core competence is the ability to identify, analyze and solve complex problems. Germans focus on problems.
Americans strive to see problems as opportunities. And opportunities are to be exploited. Competent is that person able to recognize opportunities in problem situations and to maximize the gains they offer.
Interpreting a problem as an opportunity and acting too quickly signalizes to Germans an inability to recognize the seriousness of the situation and its dangers. Americans can appear naive.
The German focus on the weak points of a given situation is understood by Americans as precisely that: seeing problems as problems and consciously seeking them out. Instead of searching for the positive in a given situation, Germans are viewed as pessimistic, negative, under circumstances destructive.
Advice to Germans
Remain problem-oriented. It is a German strength. But choose different, softer, less direct, words. Americans are quite capable of discerning between serious and less serious problems. Establish more balance between your German problem-orientation and American optimism. Not all problems have to be addressed or even solved, in order to move forward.
Advice to Americans
Reduce your natural American optimism. Show more attention to the potential down-side of a given situation. Acknowledge the problems as they are. Address them directly and openly. Not all problems are challenges. Not every cloud has a silver lining. Do not fear being negative and pessimistic with your German colleagues.