Non-verbal communication – how can it help a project manager?

One thing that you will learn very early on when it comes to project management skills that will stand you in good stead is that communication is incredibly important. And it is important to consider that communication is about more than just talking to people. At a very basic level, communication, which is probably the most important soft skill, is all about listening just as much as it is about talking. If you cannot listen properly to what the members of your team are saying to you then how can you expect them to listen to you?

Within a project management team, and particularly when your team is based in different offices or even countries, written communication can also be of particular importance. It forms a great way of communicating changes and progress within the project when other members of the team are perhaps not as easy to get hold of.

One form of communication that is often overlooked, however,  is non-verbal communication. This can often have a significant impact on the performance of a project.

What is non-verbal communication?

Non-verbal communication refers to those non-linguistic messages that are usually unconsciously or consciously given through a range of different mediums. These mediums include bodily gestures, facial expressions, touch, space, eye contact, tone, and time in the environment in which individuals communicate with each other.

The project management environment is an incredibly diverse one and as such these non-verbal communications can sometimes lead to misunderstanding, misperception and even miscommunication. With the right training for PMs, non-verbal communication can be used as an effective tool by a project manager in a range of situations.

How can a project manager use this to help?

When it comes to those communications that take place in a face to face situation, there are three elements to consider. These are tone of voice, words and body language. How these three are used can account significantly for the liking that we might have for the person using them and the message they are trying to communicate.

If a project manager wants to ensure that the message that they are sending is a cohesive one it is really important for tone, words and body language to work together to support each other. When communication is impacted by a person’s emotions the message that is sent can be confusing with the words not matching properly to the other non-verbal cues.

For some people, body language, in particular gestures when speaking is commonplace. However, for others, they are not. Gestures and stances can vary from one nationality to another, and this is also an important consideration. Someone to whom the cultural norm is to gesture seemingly randomly with the hands whilst talking is not being aggressive, but this is usually a sign of animation in the conversation.

A good project manager should be aware of things like this and take them into consideration when communicating with their team. Non-verbal communication is not just about the tone, words, and body language of the project manager but also about the members of the team.