Communicating your message while avoiding or decreasing misunderstandings is an issue in most workplaces. Poor communication and listening skills, lack of leadership and conflicting values are just a few reasons misunderstandings have become a workplace expectation rather than an exception.

Challenge yourself to avoid misunderstandings and communicate to be heard with these 5 strategies:

1. Model your expectations. Become a leader. No matter your position or role at work, exhibit courtesy, kindness and assertive behavior. At first glance, courtesy and assertiveness may appear as opposing behaviors but respectfulness is their common bond. Respect others while respecting yourself is behavior that allows for self-expression and the opportunity to ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Listen attentively. Indicate that you are listening with eye connections, gestures and encouraging phrases. Be fully present to the speaker rather than blindly nodding while you formulate your response. If you speak your message in response to what you have heard rather than spout a pre-determined comment your likelihood of getting your message across goes up. Active listening takes practice but your listeners will support and respect your ideas.

3. Take your time. Why is there always time to do it over but never time to do it right? No one appreciates a doctor that rushes through an examination and gives a diagnosis without ever asking for your input. When you are communicating your message take the time to convey it with thought, clarity, and organization and then ask questions to confirm what your listener heard. Take the time on the front end to communicate clearly and you’ll decrease the number of times work has to be duplicated.

4. Communicate values and priorities. Not everyone thinks the same way you do when it comes to values, priorities or goals. Unless you indicate what is important to you, your listener will naturally prioritize and interpret your message according to what they value.

For example, the assistant that values getting work done in an orderly sequence and checking things off a list may put her manager’s request for information on the bottom of her task list unless the manager indicates a specific deadline or priority. Be specific.

5. Make excellent communication a priority. Consciously put communicating clearly into your daily awareness. Few people think about the act of communicating any more than they think about breathing. Put “communicate clearly today” on the top of your to-do list.

Communicating clearly takes awareness and the willingness to become a better, more effective communicator.