Effective communication is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships. Regardless of whether the relationship is with a family member, significant other, coworker, friend, or acquaintance, each person is responsible for their own behavior including their communication skills.

A helpful way to communicate with others in healthy and balanced ways is to pay attention to how we feel as we send or receive information. Becoming aware of our emotions helps us sort through our thoughts and feelings, especially when our emotions have been triggered.

While our natural reactions are immediate, we are still responsible for how we respond to those reactions. Each of us is accountable for our own attitudes, actions, and words. Reacting is natural, but responding is thoughtful.

Knowing that we are response-able, consider the following five tips to help improve your communications:

1) Seek clarity. If you’re unclear about what someone means, ask clarifying questions. If you’re unsure how you are feeling about something, wait until you’re ready. And when you’ve made your point, stop explaining. If the other person isn’t ready to hear you, speaking longer or louder isn’t going to make a difference.

2) Start listening. Stop talking and start listening. Stop thinking and start listening. Stop preparing what you’re going to say in response to someone and start listening. And then when you think that you’re really listening, be quiet and start sincerely listening. It’s the most respectful thing you can do.

3) Let go. Let go of the need to be right. Let go of your ego’s desire to “win.” Let go of the need to be understood. Let go of your pride and allow yourself to learn something. Effective communication is about truth and transparency. When you let go, you allow yourself to be seen and heard. Resistance closes doors; letting go opens them.

4) Apologize. When you’ve said something rude, apologize. When you’ve offended someone, apologize. When you’ve lost your cool and raised your voice, apologize. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and apologize. “I’m sorry,” goes a long way. And when someone apologizes to you, don’t make it into a power play. Just say, “Thank you.”

5) Do the work. When someone or a situation challenges you, do the work. When you feel you need to be heard, do the work. When you’re faced with conflict or feel like giving up, do the work and get through it. Make a conscious commitment to yourself to do the work and grow from each life experience. Nothing productive ever came from avoidance. Start to do the work, refine your communication, and watch your relationships change for the better.

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a career transition coach, author, and storyteller. Find more tips about relationships in 21 Steps to Better Relationships and other inspirational books at michaelcreative.com/books

Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MichaelThomas4u

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Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com