Great relationships don’t just happen. If you want to have a great relationship it’s important to learn how to be a great communicator. Now that doesn’t mean you have to join Toast Masters and start giving speeches every week. It does mean that there are some skills we can all benefit by learning.

Talking does not equate to communicating. It is often what is not said, that provides more insight into what the other person is thinking. Body language, facial expressions, the simple art of listening, these are all things that good communicators pay attention to and use to their benefit. Relationships without communication aren’t really relationships at all. If you want to build a strong relationship of any kind – parent/child, sibling, marriage, friendship – whatever kind of relationship you want to improve, communication is going to be where it all begins.

How to be a Great Communicator

Listen – No matter what the situation is – personal relationship or business relationship – it is always better to listen more than you speak. Really listening signals to the other person that you are interested in what they have to say. That’s a powerful thing to do and can change the course of any relationship. Think about the times people have talked over your or missed the point you were trying to make because they were distracted. It didn’t feel very good, and you probably didn’t want much more to do with them. Don’t treat people that way, listen to what they have to say.

Focus – Most people, when having a discussion, spend a good chunk of their mental energy trying to figure out what they are going to say next. This means they aren’t listening to what the person is telling them right now. By focusing on the person who is speaking, and forgetting about trying to prepare an answer, you’re able to actually craft better questions that will steer the discussion in a more productive place. This can be a godsend in business and personal relationships.

Be Gracious – Everyone makes mistakes. We misspeak, we misinterpret facts, and sometimes we even make them up to make a point. If you’re arguing with a spouse or BFF, don’t focus on the mistakes. Give them a pass. No one likes a know-it-all and no one likes to be corrected for grammar during a discussion or argument. Let it go and try to stick to the topic at hand.

Look – Pay attention to body language – yours and the other person’s. Someone who has their fists clenched is probably really upset and might benefit from taking a break in the discussion. On the other hand, if the person with whom your talking has their body open to you that could mean they’re receptive to what you are saying. Mirror their body language and slowly start opening up and you’ll find the connection getting stronger between you two.

Understand – Great communicators understand that honesty is the best policy. If you can’t have a respectful and honest discussion, you may as well not have one at all.