As a leader of a small business, it can feel incredibly daunting to try and hold together a team of individuals who aren’t great at communicating. After all, a successful team only excels when they’re working together as a collective, so having any obtrusive barriers between coworkers is bound to lead to problems. For this reason, it’s crucial that you find ways to truly impact your team through real, effective listening practices that make every individual in the office feel heard, included and appreciated for their efforts. With this in mind, here are some key techniques for bridging the gap between colleagues with greater communication skills.

Many individuals are guilty of not being a great listener all the time, but there are those who may not even realize the extent to which they won’t listen. For instance, there’s the idea of being a defensive listener, meaning you’re just constantly defending your own opinions and you’re always on the attack whenever someone else offers a differing viewpoint. This causes you to never hear or remember another person’s point of view, leading to strained relationships from the start when your colleagues realize they’re never going to get their point across in a conversation with you. Being a better listener means accepting that your coworkers may have a different viewpoint than you, and actually hearing what they have to say to gain a better understanding of their own beliefs and values.

Meanwhile, one of the most common performances of poor listening comes in the form of assuming what another person is going to say before they say it. In this situation, you could be having a conversation and constantly interrupting the other people, assuming you know beforehand what point they’re trying to make and finishing their sentences for them. Whether you’re trying to speed up a conversation by searching for the end of the others’ arguments, or you simply feel you know the other people enough to guess their words, the bottom line is you’re not being a good listener. Try to stop yourself from finishing another’s sentences to truly hear what he or she is trying to get across, instead of what you think is implied by past conversations on similar topics.

Being an excellent leader means improving upon yourself in a variety of ways, and becoming a better listener is a truly important skill to develop over time. After all, improved listening can lead to stronger relationships amongst clients and coworkers alike, ones that can affect the success of your business. Therefore, remembering these examples in future conversations can help guide you towards a brighter future as an effective leader.