Christmas is a time for people to get together. Between office parties, get-togethers with friends, and Christmas dinner itself, most of us spend a lot of time face-to-face with family, colleagues, and friends during this season. And all that “face time” has the potential to be filled with either connection or conflict. How do you do your part to increase connection?

I believe connection and communication are closely linked. Here are five ways you can connect and communicate more lovingly and effectively during this season:

1.     Establish Common Ground

Think for a moment about the people you are close to. Each person is unique. And the differences that make us interesting also make it a challenge to connect. But common ground always exists. It’s your job to discover it. For better connection with the people you love, focus on the areas where you agree. Also try to see things from their perspective. If you do these two things in your conversations, you’ll establish meaningful connection and decrease conflict during your time together.

2.     Use More than Words

When you’re the one speaking, no matter what you’re trying to say, you need to be aware of ALL the ways that you are communicating: verbally, visually, and emotionally. Make sure that all of them are saying the same thing. People are affected less by what we say, and more by what they understand. So if your words say one thing, but your body language or tone says another, people may not be receiving what you intended for them to receive. They may hear your words, but they also feel your attitude. Match your body language and emotional tone to words of love and affirmation, and you’ll communicate those things in the deepest way.

3.     Stop Talking and Listen

It’s probably true that all of us have room to improve as listeners. It’s natural to focus on ourselves and what we are planning to say next. In fact, when was the last time that you really LISTENED to someone you care about? This takes focus and attention, and the willingness to set aside what you want to say, so that you really hear the other person. Good listening communicates care. So focus on listening, especially to your loved ones, when you’re spending time together, and they’ll receive the message that you love them.

4.     Live What You Say

Whether or not you intend to be, you are the message you communicate to others. Your actions, more than anything else, determine whether other people want to connect with you. Do the thoughts you share match the actions you take on a daily basis? The key to connecting effectively is to be consistent and authentic. By making your words and actions match, you will connect most effectively with friends and family.

5.     Ask Questions to Go Deeper

I personally love asking questions. This one practice helps me get to know new people more than any other. And it helps me to connect with people close to me. That’s why one of my favorite things to do during a meal together is to ask one or two questions of everyone at the table. It’s definitely something I’ll be doing during this holiday season, and I recommend it for you.

Here are two questions I recently asked at my table during our company Christmas party: 1) What is one favorite Christmas memory, gift, or tradition? (pick one); 2) What was one highlight of 2015 for you? These two questions opened up so many doors of connection for everyone at the table, and we learned new things about each other. Whether you use my questions or your own, you can go deeper and connect more simply by asking good questions while you’re together during this season.

One final thing to remember about good connection: It’s not about you. It’s about the other person. If you truly want to connect with family, friends and colleagues this season, you must put them first. You have to change your focus from inward to outward, off of yourself and onto others. And that’s the spirit of the season anyway.

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