It is becoming increasingly difficult to have meaningful conversations. Texts, emails and social media are commonplace distractions and hamper our ability to engage in a productive conversation. This can be especially frustrating when colleagues are trying to resolve work issues. Follow these 5 STEPS to improve your communication strategy:

Step #1 Focus

Multitasking may be fine in certain situations, but not when you are having a conversation. If you are trying to write an email, answer the phone and have a face to face conversation all at the same time, something is going to be lost. Whether you are having a conversation in person or on the phone, give the other person some focused time. You will make them feel important and you may learn something that will make the difference in the outcome of the conversation.

Step #2 Be an Active Listener

Contrary to popular belief, listening is not a passive activity. Active, effective listening takes practice. The message you send to the speaker is critical to creating a productive conversation. It includes body language, eye contact, demonstrating interest and using good summarizing techniques (“so what I hear you saying is….”).

Step #3 Ask Good Questions

In order to have a meaningful conversation, both parties need to be engaged. If you ask a few relevant questions it will show you are interested and help to clarify what is being said. The answers to the questions will also help to bridge the gap between being barely involved and being totally engaged.

Step #4 Take Notes

It is a compliment to the speaker when you take notes during or immediately after an important conversation. Since we have many conversations during the day, it is hard to remember everything unless you document it somewhere. Record takeaways from the conversation to save time in the future and to help you remember important information.   

Step #5 Consider the Communication Style of Your Listeners

Everyone has a preferred style of communicating. Think about how the listener will receive your words and try to modify your conversation to maximize the impact. Does the listener prefer to get all the details, or do they prefer a more strategic approach? Is the listener generally empathetic to the needs of others, or more egocentric? If you consider the perspective of the listener, you will have more effective conversations and get more satisfactory results.