It takes more to be a good communicator than to simply talk to someone; it is even more important to be a good listener. The way we talk (the tone and the words we choose) is important. Taking note of the other persons cues (both verbal and nonverbal), and attempting to gain understanding of their perspective on the situations, are vital.

Here are a few tips on how to be a good communicator, both at home and at work.

1) Think before you react.

We have a choice on how we respond in any given situation. Yelling or getting defensive during a conversation is rarely productive. In fact, these responses usually backfire causing more miscommunication and accusations. It is far better to remain on topic and attempt to find solutions.

2) Asking Questions

Comprehending what is happening, allowing for a deeper understanding of the underlying issues, is imperative. You may be able to approach the problem from a new angle and develop some new solutions.

3) Ask for Clarification if You Don’t Understand

If the other person says something you don’t fully understand repeat what you think they meant as a question. Something like “So what you are saying is that… right?”

4) Agree with Feelings.

While you may not agree with the “facts” in the conversation, acknowledging a persons feelings show that you are paying attention to the conversation and trying to understand them.

5) Set Limits.

As a talk starts to escalate into an argument this becomes increasingly important. Arguments rarely result in any solutions, it more often simply fuels additional hostility. A simple “I never thought of it that way.” or “You may have a point.” can go a long way towards diffusing the situation.

6) Be Careful in Your Word Choice.

The use of absolutes, words like “always” and “never”, tend to be hot points in any conversation. There are usually exceptions to the statement and it can only really put the person on the defensive. By phrases such as “It feels like” you can better relay your perspective to the others in the conversation, helping them to understand where you are coming from. This can help move the conversation forward and help find a solution to the problem.

Remember, communication is a skill and it must be practiced to be kept sharp and improved. Hopefully these tips can help you be a better communicator in you future conversations.