“Communication is about being effective, not always about being proper.” -Bo Bennett

The difference between successful people and those that are not often lies in their ability to communicate effectively. Fortunately, this ability is not a talent, rather it is a skill that can be practiced and developed with some practice. Here are 4 tips to help you:

Watch the tone of your voice, especially when strong emotions (like anger or frustration) is running rampant. An overly aggressive tone provokes a "fight-or-flight" response in the listener and creates a barrier that prevents effective communication. A tone that is heavy with sarcasm, or come across as rude, often results in a misinterpretation of what you are trying to say, and can potentially lead to a giant misunderstanding. A tone that sounds distracted, preoccupied, or apathetic makes the listener not care and tune out from the conversation altogether.

Cut the accusations. People don't like being accused as it makes them feel negative and guilty even if they are completely innocent. Many people without realizing it can participate in a very common form of accusatory conversation called gossiping, where the subject of the conversation is often accused and judged unfairly based on rumors without them being there to defend themselves. Participating in accusatory conversations do absolutely nothing to improve your skill in being an effective communicator, so do yourself a favor and try to avoid it.

Stop the interruptions. Interruption kills conversation and it turns people off. Habitual interrupters are often perceived as arrogant, rude, disrespectful, childish, and bad at listening. People are less likely to listen to the content of your message if they have these negative perceptions about you. If you have to chime in, watch your timing, make sure you don't interrupt mid-sentence, and when in group settings, make a little body gesture (like raising your hand) to let the current speaker knows that you have something to say.

When it comes to effective communication, less is often more. Depending on the topic of the conversation, sometimes it might take longer to get your point across or deliver your message. (Note that being able to converse for a long time doesn't mean that you are an effective communicator; it just means that you can talk for an extended period). The key to be effective here is to keep the ramblings and tangents to minimal, and keep the points as concise and clear as possible.

If you want to become an effective communicator, just remember to “Cut the TAIL (Tone, Accusation, Interruption, Length)!