People make the world go ’round. Communication is the grease that keeps us all running smoothly.

Some people think communication starts with your mouth. No. Others think communication starts with your ears. No. Communication actually starts with body language, whether near or from afar.

Before we dive into the tips, I’d like to share a little story.

Several years ago when the economy was rough, I needed an assistant. I placed an advertisement online and as suspected received many applicants (504 to be exact).

I paired it down to thirty people who looked promising on paper. One of my employees phone screened them. I met with ten people we felt would be the best fit.

I decided to meet the tenth candidate for lunch. As I approached the building, she was sitting on a bench outside. From seventy-five feet away, I caught her stare. She smiled. She rose. Her smile got bigger.

As we approached each other, she extended her hand and gave me a shake with the proper strength that said you wouldn’t need to look any further. Then her words came out, “It’s so nice to meet you.”

She was nicely dressed and her overall appearance was well, but not overly, manicured.

She had only uttered six words, but I knew as long as she didn’t throw her chopped salad in my lap my search was over.

She turned out to be absolutely fabulous.

First things first…

Smile. Do you realize even though the corners of your mouth need to rise, smiling takes less energy than frowning? People respond to this because you appear warm, welcoming, and nonjudgmental. They want to share themselves with you and learn about you. Smiling is so important I hang up on people who don’t smile when they’re on the phone with me. I learned this trick from a United Airlines customer service agent when I asked her why she was able to find me a significantly lower airfare when the previous agent I worked with could not. She said, “Mr. LaCivita, when you call us and the person who answers isn’t smiling, hang up and call back.” So, the answer to your question is this technique also works when the other party can’t see you.

Shake hands firmly. I don’t care whether it’s a man, woman, child, or dog, give them a good shake. Please stand when you do it. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of your $58 filet mignon. Stand up! Show the other person you think his or her hand is worth shaking. If you’re wearing a hat, cap, bandana, headband or whatever else people wear on their heads these days, take it off. It’s a polished move and shows you’re respectful and cool.

Mind your attire. When was the last time you walked into a bookstore and dashed to the worst book cover you could find? Of course, people will eventually realize bad writing and bad stories even if your book has a sexy cover. If you’re an unpleasant person, it won’t matter if you’re wearing couture. You’ll still be better off dressing well than like a slob. That will at least make a good impression before you open your mouth.

Think, say, do. You’ll never be more in harmony with yourself or the rest of the world than when these three things are the same.

Open your mind. I like to say an open mind is a peaceful place. Your biases will make you a terrible listener. You’ll dismiss what you don’t want to believe and rush to an agreement for what you want to believe. Before you can be a great listener, you need to unclutter the baggage and noises in your head.

Stretch your ears. The weird-looking things on the sides of your head are amazing. Mine help me experience joy before I walk into my house as I hear my fur babies bark before on the other side of the door. They also help you understand what the other party needs or cares about. Be a giver by listening first.

Think positive thoughts right before you open your mouth. Stay positive. If someone says something, before you respond, it’s better to wonder why she thinks what she thinks. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Ask her why. Once you understand her “why,” you’ll be able to shape your response in a good-natured way.

Use positive words after you open your mouth. How you say what you say is just as important as what you say. I’m convinced you never need to use negative language even in the harshest of situations. Negative language never yields the best outcomes. It’s demotivating.

Did I hear you correctly?

Perform the intent check. Even if you have an open mind and are listening, make sure you understood him or her. There needs to be a mutual understanding otherwise you technically miscommunicated. I like to perform an intent check when someone shares something important. Simply repackage what the other person said and confirm, preferably in different words, what the other person meant.

Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying…

Do what you say you’ll do. Smiling and using positive language is meaningless if you don’t do what you say you’ll do. This nonverbal communication has a higher decibel level than anything that can possibly come out of your mouth—even if you’re screaming at the top of your lungs. Follow through on what you promise!

I’ve written several articles on communication, but two I consider especially helpful are Raise Your Communication Intelligence to Improve Your Decision Making and In 4 Minutes Become the Most Memorable Job Candidate.

If you’d like a more advanced course, check out Interview Intervention: Communication That Gets You Hired. I give it away free!

You might also be interested in The Top 12 Professional Etiquette Tips.

As always, I’d love to hear from you: What are your best communication tips?

If you enjoyed this article, you can find other wonderful tips and tricks related to life and work via the usual social spots at LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

In other exciting news, The Hiring Prophecies: Psychology behind Recruiting Successful Employees is now for sale!