The most essential component of communication is listening. You can lead more effectively and problem-solve better when you’re clear on a conversational partner’s needs. Here are three ways people often fail in conversation and how to improve.

Jumping to Conclusions

If you make your mind up before a person finishes speaking, you’re likely setting yourself up to get a poor response when you talk. Don’t assume what a person wants or is leading up to before they finish a thought. If you find yourself constantly trying to finish a person’s sentences or prompt a conversation by summing up their intent, you are probably falling into this trap.

Overcome an assumptive approach by tuning into a person’s message and feelings with genuine curiosity. Ask sincere questions to ensure you understand correctly and be open to correction. Pay close attention and display empathy.

Condescending Toward Others

Everyone has unique viewpoints and observations. Just because you disagree with what someone is saying doesn’t mean you have to point out all the differences in opinion or try to persuade them. People will stop seeking your perspective if you always speak negatively of other ideas. Or likewise, insist on offering a “better” way of doing things without conceding to the value of a different approach.

You may also fall into this trap when someone comes to you for advice. If you treat them as lesser than yourself, you give off a bearing of condescension and arrogance. The key is to stand in their shoes with careful attention to their concerns. Once you’ve demonstrated you comprehend their situation and affirm that understanding, humbly offer a solution while acknowledging the room for other possibilities.

Being Defensive

It’s hard not to immediately go on the defense when a person comes to you with criticism or a suggestion. If you tend to see the flaws in others’ advice and insist upon your way, you might have fallen prey to defensiveness. If you don’t actively fight a tendency to be defensive, you may take a defensive posture even when no criticism is given.

To stay positive and benefit from others’ sage advice, learn to kick the “but.” If you feel the urge to respond to a piece of advice with “but” or “however,” resist the impulse to do so. Express appreciation for the other person’s concern and ask questions to clarify why the counsel applies and how it would work despite perceived obstacles.

You might have heard that humans have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Give extra attention to improving your listening abilities to improve your business relationships.