The Best Communication Doesn’t Always Require Words

As someone who’s been in the project portfolio management profession for 18 years, I can attest to the statistic that project managers spend 90% of their time communicating.  We’re talking, emailing, in meetings, on the phone, instant messaging and more throughout the day.  But when a team clicks, I’ve found that words aren’t always needed.

Take a group of bicycle riders.  When they’re riding in a line, or peloton, very rarely do you hear them talk.  Most often, you’ll see them use hand gestures.  For some that have been together for quite awhile, they just know based on small head gestures or about how long someone can hang out front.  Ultimately, they don’t require words.

Now think of a project team you’ve been on that really clicked.  They all start with the forming/storming/norming processes.  But when they start performing, there’s a chemistry that takes place where words aren’t always needed and non-verbals take over.

For example, one of the last projects I was on I worked very closely with an application development lead.  Her and I worked very well together.  We had a couple of challenging team members that needed constant supervision.  At first, her and I had to step away to talk quick when we had to address an issue, then come back to the person.  Over time, our body language and hand gestures took over and could address problems real-time instead of stepping out.

As teams and people work, verbal communication is necessary, but not always required.  The best communication doesn’t always require words when non-verbals can do the talking for you.

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