Whether it’s an old friend, a new acquaintance or a business partner, we all desire to connect with others and communicate effectively with them. However, for many of us, it’s not that easy to connect with people. We often find we can only really connect with those who share similar views as we do. This means we only truly connect with friends and family who we have already established some common ground. But, connecting with others – including strangers – is not as difficult as it may seem. What makes it difficult is that we are usually more concerned with being understood than with understanding.

Look at two people having a conversation. You will usually notice that each person appears to hold his own opinions that he considers significantly more important than those of the other person, although each might pretend otherwise. Each of these people will wait impatiently for their turn to speak, nodding and throwing polite remarks here and there so as not to cut the other person short and appear rude. Therein lies the problem. Both of these people are so focused on voicing their own opinions that they don’t really hear what the other is saying. That in itself is a recipe for poor communication.

If you want to truly connect and communicate effectively with others, reverse the two priorities. Be more concerned with understanding than being understood. Then you will connect and be better placed to say the right things. Here are three quick tips you can use to connect with just about anyone and improve your communication with them no matter who they are or what their status may be.

1. Find out where the person is coming from.

The words we utter are not as important as the message we are trying to communicate. It is our duty as decent human beings to try and understand the true meaning of what people are saying. Ask yourself why is the speaker saying what they are saying? Where are those words coming from? That why is the real message you should be hearing. It is what tells you who the speaker is and what they value. If you can understand where they are coming from, you are in a much better position to connect with them and truly understand their worry, passion, or some other reality or feeling significant in their life.

For example, if a friend suddenly brings up her kids in a conversation, it’s probably not because she wants you to know she has kids. It’s probably because she has her kids in mind and wants to get it out of her mind. Pick up on that cue and try to uncover the underlying reason for her bringing up the topic. Empathize with and encourage her to talk freely about what is really troubling her. That’s a first step to truly making a connection with someone.

2. Really listen to what they say.

The habit of really listening to what others are saying is a rare one, but one that is essential for real connections and healthy communication. Lay aside all thoughts about yourself and your interests for the few minutes it takes to allow the other person to speak what’s on her mind or what’s troubling her. Too often we are easily distracted by our own thoughts and want to respond even before the other person is finished speaking. Resist that urge and just listen to the other person’s story attentively because it is important to them. Try to understand their reasoning and the feelings behind their words.

Not only will the other person be grateful that you care and are trying to see their perspective, but they will also be more likely to take an interest in what’s on your mind as well. That’s because after someone has said all they wanted to say they have room to listen to what others have to say and can actually listen attentively to others without being distracted by their own thoughts. All we want as human beings is to be understood. It’s important to us. Give that to people and they’ll be more than happy to listen to you in return.

3. Respect everything they tell you.

Don’t batter people with your own stances after they have poured out their heart to you. That would be insensitive and rude. Instead, genuinely appreciate and respect everything they told you. You may not be into sports, but when you are in a more conscious state you can understand and respect why an ardent sports fun is upset with his favorite team losing. We all know what it feels like to lose or win something dear to us so it is not beyond you to understand where that person is coming from and how he is feeling.

People feel connected to you when they realize you actually “get it.” They are grateful and filled with a sense of joy and relief when another person is receptive to their story and non-judgmental. Be that person who sees the humanity in others, understands where they are coming from and respects their values. That’s the secret to establishing real human-to-human connections and opening valuable channels for effective communication with anyone.