Communication skills are lacking in the workplace because they aren’t taught very well in college and because it takes time to develop them. Last year, we found that 98 percent of employers are looking for communications skills when hiring and this year we found that 40% of students believe that their reliance on technology has hindered the development of their interpersonal skills. It’s easy to find someone who has the right technical skills to get the job done but when it comes to actually communicating, that’s where employers have trouble. Employees are constantly communicating in the workplace through meetings, email and phone calls. If you don’t have strong communication skills, it becomes extremely difficult to be successful and rise up in your organization. Here are some tips on how to become a better communicator at work:

1. Know your audience. Before you engage in a conversation with someone, think about what their needs are, what they are looking for and how you can best deliver for them. Think about their role in your company, the resources they need and what their challenges are. Go through your company directory, and on LinkedIn, to learn about their background, where they went to college, what their previous work experience was and details about what they are currently doing for your company now. All of this information will help prepare you for a meeting or a speech. The more you know about your audience, the easier it is to communicate with them.

2. Think about what you want to accomplish. It’s important to know what your goals are, not just theirs. By understanding what your desired outcome is, you can move and change the direction of the conversation so that you can get the right answers to influence people into action. For instance, you will go about the conversation differently if you’re trying to get a co-worker to be part of your project than if you’re just trying to educate them on a new product.

3. Be receptive to others. When you communicate with someone, don’t expect the answers to be presented in a certain way and style. Be focused and keep your mind open to what’s being said so you can respond accordingly. Be open to criticism and not afraid to offer your critique on the situation, as long as you do it in a pleasant manner. If you take criticism personally it can negatively affect your work and people will be more hesitant to give you that feedback next time around.

4. Have a positive attitude. Most of communication is body language and tone. By being positive, you are more open to the person you’re speaking to and more welcoming of conversation. Show genuine care and concern when you’re speaking to someone. People will respond to you based on how you carry yourself. When someone has something interesting to say, compliment them and show them that they are bringing something valuable to the table.

5. Don’t interrupt. If you interrupt someone who is talking to you, it’s a sign of disrespect and makes you seem like you don’t’ care what they have to say. Sometimes if you interrupt, you might get completely off topic and the conversation might end up going nowhere. Also, if you interrupt people will tune you out and ignore what you have to say.

6. Know the context. If you want to have a valuable conversation, it helps to understand the circumstances. The context of your conversation can tell you a lot about what to say, how to say it and when to say it. Don’t make assumptions that could waste everyone’s time and try to make sure everyone gets what they want out of the conversation in the end.