Communication isn’t something we usually give much thought to, we don’t practice how to talk to our friends or business partners, we don’t research on how to improve it. But being good at communication will improve your relationships and good relationships are the basis of success both professionally and personally.

So what is the key? Business and development coach Henry Barbey said that one of the primary factors of good communication is listening. Instead of just listening to hear, listen to understand. Try to actively listen to what kind of information the other person wants to transmit, make sure to attempt to understand what they are trying to say instead of contemplating your response at the same time. To enforce this, so to demonstrate to the other person that you are listening, you can acknowledge them with a nod every once in awhile. Barbey also uses what he calls a ‘feedback loop’ which is when you repeat something the other person said back to them, so as to show that you understood what they were trying to say and your response is based on it.

There are certain things that stand in the way of good communication. It could be the current environment, if it’s noisy, for example, you will not be able to concentrate well enough. You could be preoccupied with your own thoughts, thinking or planning things in your head and not paying enough attention to your partner. Sometimes prejudice and judgement cloud our minds. In such cases you might misinterpret things that the other person is saying or judge them more harshly based on your preconceived notions. Cultural factors also play a huge role in communication, as people from different backgrounds communicate differently, they might say things differently or use different body language which might be interpreted as offensive for you, even if there was no such intentions. And lastly, even your own self esteem could be standing in your way. If you are in some way intimidated by the person you are talking to, you will most likely think more about how you look, what your body is doing, what words you’re using rather than listening to the person.

Well, I am happy to say that there are certain things you can do to avoid these things. First of all, be conscious of your own communication. Actively be aware of how you communicate so that you can pinpoint the aspects that you can improve and that is already a huge step towards better communication. Furthermore, practice the feedback loop and listen actively to what the person is saying, put your sole focus on them.

If you notice, that at any point in the conversation, your mind is drifting off, ask them to repeat themselves and try to focus again. If you cannot overcome whatever is distracting you at all, then suggest to have the conversation another time when you can focus better, to really be able to show the proper respect to the other person.

James Humes said “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”. To truly become a great leader, communication should be one of your first priorities. As a leader, one of your roles is to empower people and to help them grow. You need to be able to elicit their goals, you need to coach them and help them on their way. All this cannot be done without proper communication. And this is just one of many scenarios where leadership requires great communication skills. So use these tips, make an effort, improve yourself and you will see the benefits almost instantly!