Stakeholder Clues

How to tune in to non-verbal communication

July 24, 2014

by Denise Gifford


Do you know what your stakeholders really think about your project?

You’ve read their emails. You’ve met with them. You’ve provided reports and solicited feedback. But what are they really thinking?

Are they happy with where things are going? Do they feel that you are managing the project well? Do they trust you to get the job done? Do they believe you have things under control?

It’s not just communication, but the type of communication that can give you additional clues. Paying attention to non-verbal communication will help you understand what’s really going on.

While studies vary, most researchers assert that non-verbal communication is by far the largest component of human communication. The most frequently cited studies say that over 90% of our day-to-day communication is non-verbal. That’s a lot of potentially useful information for the project manager.

When you hear and see your stakeholder face-to-face, you will learn more about what they really think than you could ever determine from an email.   Do they make eye contact? Is their body language open or closed? What is their tone of voice?   Do they appear friendly or guarded? What were their gestures? Did their voice change in volume or speed?

And if things don’t feel quite right after assessing these clues, you have a real-time opportunity to find out what’s going on by asking questions and getting behind the issues.

Seek out opportunities to meet with your stakeholders throughout the project, not just at the beginning and end. There is a wealth of information you will find in non-verbal clues that will help you stay on track; the clues are there but you have to look for them. And that can only happen in person.

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