The Psychology of International Business Communication

with Gerhard Ohrband (M.A., University of Hamburg/Germany)

For your company, do you know the statistics about …

  • … how your customers and business partners perceive the communication style of your company representatives?
  • … how many customers and business partners have ceased to deal with your company because of inappropriate communication?
  • … how many potential customers and business partners have decided to go to another company because they disliked the way your company representatives communicated with them?
  • …. what the monetary value of the above-mentioned lost opportunities is?

Good communication is really not about charisma and persuasion tricks

Many think that, if employees want to communicate well with clients, they need …

  • To have charisma, or a positive, extraverted personality,
  • To study techniques of persuasion and manipulation,
  • To be very self-confident,
  • To impress clients with how well they can speak.

In reality, good communication depends on how you solve the following basic communication problems.

The 2 basic problems in customer relations


  • Not listening to your customers, while talking non-stop about your company and products
  • Giving the customers information that is not relevant to him or her
  • Transparently manipulative behavior (customers in the new economy are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about persuasion tricks)


  • Not responding in time or at all (especially, in long-distance relationships)
  • Not informing customers proactively about critical events and changes
  • Not asking enough questions
  • Not going deeper into the customers' answers to those questions

Why to employees over-communicate?

  • They want to impress the customer.
  • They think that this is what they are expected to do as a good company representative.
  • They are afraid of looking to passive (what if my boss sees I am only listening?)
  • They think that they need to behave like when they had to answer to the teacher at school.
  • They think they and their charismatic personality are the decisive factor in convincing the customer.
  • They lack genuine interest for the situation and needs of the customer.

Why do employees under-communicate?

  • They lack genuine curiosity for the situation and needs of the customer.
  • At school and in their family, they were discouraged to ask too many, or “stupid”, questions.
  • Asking questions may lead the conversations into areas where the employee might feel incompetent.
  • They have been taught to “Wait, until you are asked!”.
  • They lack good role models for communications.
  • They are afraid of saying the wrong thing and of making the customer angry.

Why can I help in this situation?

I studied psychology at the University of Hamburg, under professor Inghard Langer, author of the Hamburg Understandability Concept.

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching psychology at universities, and international business communication for private individuals and international corporations (mostly, from Germany).

Working with diplomats and company directors of more than 40 countries, I developed and tested the following method that transforms employees into more empathic and effective communicators. And, it allows you to measure more objectively the improvements in your employees’ communication skills.

What are key elements of my method?

  • Employees engage in role playing of difficult job-related situations.
  • All interactions are filmed and analyzed afterwards.
  • Participants rate themselves and their colleagues on different scales, relevant to their job.
  • Compatibility or discrepancies between self-evaluations and peer evaluations are discussed.
  • Employees are coached how to communicate more efficiently, based on communication psychology and intercultural relations studies.
  • The overall framework is based on humanistic and positive psychology: Employees are respected and coached as individuals. The focus is not on „right or wrong“, but on developing each employees´ personal strengths.

“We have a very specific situation; we do not need general courses on communication!”

  • The concrete training situations can be developed or adapted together with your company. If you have a functioning Quality Management (QM) system under ISO, looking into typical customer complaints or internal and external audit reports can be an easy starting point. A more time-consuming approach could be to gather data through selected interviews or surveys (with employees, current and former customers).
  • The criteria for analyzing training situations can be adapted according to your company’s values and job descriptions.
  • Based on the training sessions, we will elaborate a specific Standard Operating Procedure on communication (with “Do’s and Don’ts”) that you can disseminate among all employees and integrate in existing QM documents.

What about foreign languages?

  • This method can be additionally used to measure actual language abilities (How well co employees actually cope in a foreign language when confronted with a more complex situation than just a job interview or a presentation?).
  • With it, you can develop competency in foreign languages among your employees; a competency that is focused on the real situations in their specific job, not on just completing a generic textbook at school.
  • As I do speak several languages well, the training and materials are available in the following languages: German, English, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Russian.

What does my exclusivity clause mean?

In a given year, I do not work with two or more companies in a concrete sector and geographical area.

Are you curious?

Let us talk. I will make you a 15 minute-presentation of my method to you and your key employees.

[email protected]

00373 68026059 (also Whatsapp)


I am psychologist with an MA from the University of Hamburg, Germany.  Please check out my podcast on how to become a better communicator at work and at home – even if you are not naturally gifted. This is the podcast for those of us with communication barriers: We may have an accent, be introvert, shy or even socially anxious. Twice a week, I share both academic research as well as practical steps on how to enter a virtuous cycle of communication improvement.

If you want to book me for trainings, please contact me via e-mail:  [email protected]