In non-verbal communication, sometimes called body language, information can be conveyed through gestures and facial expressions (kinesics), eye contact (oculesics), touching (haptics), maintaining appropriate distance (proxemics), paralanguage (nonverbal cues of the voice), as well as object communication. There are several important points to be remembered while dealing with the Americans.
When meeting someone for the first time, a smile and a firm handshake with direct eye contact will usually make a good first impression. If possible, be the first to offer your hand; this demonstrates confidence. Eye contact is an important sign of respect and it communicates openness, honesty, confidence as well as warmth. Especially in the South or in small communities, if you make eye contact when passing someone in a hallway, on the street, in a grocery store, etc., always acknowledge that person with a small smile or a nod of the head. Turning away is considered rude.
The Americans are not very tactile at first encounter. There is of course the customary handshake when you meet (right hand only, not too strong), and when you leave. In a social setting, when you donít know people very well, a smile and wave will usually do. If you really hit it off with someone, you may graduate to the hug and kiss on both cheeks. This is not the norm in a business setting. Americans do not generally kiss and/or hug in greeting outside a familial or intimate relationship, although you might observe people greeting each other or being introduced with a kiss on the cheek in the largest metropolitan centers where international influences are greater. It would be unusual in a business introduction and in the US, with the sexual harassment environment and high degree of litigationómost people stay very clear of this. Public displays of affection are acceptable if they are tasteful. Hugging seems much more common in the US than kissing, and is perfectly acceptable. Extended embraces in public are generally not considered tasteful, but are common in some social situations (dance clubs and bars for example). Public displays of anger and other volatile emotional displays are generally frowned upon. They are most commonly displayed at sporting events, and as long as there is no provocation to violence, are generally well tolerated in that context.
The best facial expression is a happy oneóAmericans generally "put on a happy face" when they "go out into the world", whether that is professional or social. Eye contact is good as long as it is not confrontational (donít stare). It usually denotes interest and understanding. It is good to nod your head in agreement occasionally to show you are engaged in the conversation.
In the US, the personal bubble seems to range between 2 to 3 feet with closer allowances for louder places (such as a night-club or sporting event). In this context, you will usually get closer to allow yourself to be heard and then back away while reaffirming what you just said with the corresponding facial expression. In a more intimate setting, the space bubble will decrease. In general, you donít want to be "in someoneís face". In terms of personal space, 2 and often 3 feet is an appropriate distance to stand away from someone you are speaking with. Americans generally do not like to have their "personal space" encroached upon. Generally, gestures and touching are not common in initial encounters, either socially or in a work context. But once you become familiar with an environment there may be a higher degree of casualness.
Last but not least, one should not ignore object communication, of which the most common form is clothing. The appropriate clothing for business varies widely. Proper dress depends on the region of the country, a person's company, his or her position within it and the industry in which he or she works. The best approach is to be conservative until you have had a chance to observe what others wear in an office. You can always get more casual after you get a sense of how people dress.