Effective verbal and nonverbal communication

Simone Kohl

3 mins read

“You can’t “not” communicate” – that’s what Paul Watzlawick said. Therefore, as a team, it is important to communicate effectively – verbal and nonverbal. And to be able to work together even better as a team, we had an inhouse training on the topic of communication (verbal and nonverbal communication).
There we learned more about Watzlawick, for example:

Paul Watzlawick established 5 basic rules (pragmatic axioms) that explain human communication and show its paradoxes:

  1. you cannot not communicate
  2. every communication has a content and a relationship aspect
  3. communication is always cause and effect
  4. human communication uses analog and digital modalities
  5. communication is symmetrical or complementary

We have summarized what we have learned about this here:

Types of communication
There are different types of communication, namely nonverbal communication and verbal communication.

nonverbal communication

People also communicate without words. This means that if you look silently at your counterpart without saying a word, you are still communicating.
Most communication takes place nonverbally, through gestures, facial expressions or our body posture. Therefore, it is useful to look at what this form of communication means and how the behavior is interpreted by the other person.

This kind of communication is possible through looks, facial expressions, gestures, our appearance like clothes, hair, make-up or our posture. In order for these to reach the other person, he must receive and process the signals through his senses. As with verbal communication, there is also a sender (who sends the message) and a receiver who decodes the message. In the process, many misunderstandings can occur. Sometimes, for example, our nonverbal communication does not match our verbal communication, meaning we are not coherent (i.e. the same in facial expression and verbal expression). Or our “look” is misinterpreted (decoded) by the receiver (our counterpart).

verbal communication

Verbal communication is the oral or written exchange between people and consists of speech and sounds. There is an exchange between the receiver and the sender. There is a sender who sends the information, for example, through speech or writing in the form of a code. The task of the receiver is to decode this code. This can lead to misunderstandings.

In our team, we asked which types of communication we use the most: In fact, it was nonverbal and verbal communication in the form of visualizations and meetings.

Another axiom of Watzlawick is: digital communication analog communication.
Human communication includes both digital and analog modalities.
The digital component means what we say. It is the literal meaning of what we say. The analog component refers to how we say it. Problems arise when what we say sends a different message than what we show with our body language.

We tend to believe the nonverbal message is true. Therefore, it is important that we are consistent with what we say and how we say it.

Example: our supervisor tells us we did a good job, but says it in an angry tone. You might be confused about what he/she really means because of the nonverbal communication.
You might wonder if he/she is being sarcastic, if he/she is jealous, if he/she is upset, and we might end up feeling like we didn’t really do a good job.

Tip: To ensure the free flow of communication, no matter what type of relationship you find yourself in, you need to be aware of these differences when you talk to your team or teammates. Becoming aware of these things is the first step to ensuring that we communicate effectively.

how can we communicate more clearly and better?

What to consider to communicate in a way that resonates with the other person? We asked our team, “How can we communicate better?” The answers were as follows:

  • Be open to the other person’s communication
  • Asking questions so that there are no misunderstandings, but in a requesting and not demanding way
  • Always talking about it when something was not clearly understood
  • Share information
  • Don’t be shy – ask!

We also collected more tips on how to communicate with your team: 4 tips to improve team communication.

communication in agile projects

In project management, good communication is an effective tool. That’s why we’ve summarized here our findings on what we particularly value in the team:

  • Well documented tasks
  • Write every detail in the ticket to be able to work on it clearly with the team members
  • Mentioning and informing about any necessary collaboration with other team members


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Simone Kohl
Simone Kohl

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