How to be good at sports

What are the qualities that make an athlete a good role model?

How to be good at sports

What is a role model and what effects do role models have?

The term role model is defined as “a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially younger people” (Random House Dictionary). Accordingly, a brain surgeon or airline pilot can be a role model for similarly motivated boys and girls. Role models may have a considerable impact on a person’s values, education, and chosen training objectives. For example, they have been shown to have significant effects on female students’ self-confidence in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields.

What about sports stars as role models?

There’s a history of speculation and argument about athletes taking on the status of role models. In 1993, Nike ran a ground-breaking TV commercial from early April through the end of the NBA playoffs. The ad featured Charles Barkley proclaiming “I am not a role model.” At the time, he was a superstar hoopster for the Phoenix Suns, and his comment generated quite a stir, as he staunchly defended his position.

How to be good at sports

What was so controversial about what “Sir Charles” said?

He emphasized that athletes’ ability to make baskets or catch touchdown passes has nothing to do with being a role model. That is, having sporting ability doesn’t automatically qualify a person to be a role model. Rather, Barkley believed that’s a job for parents. I agree and would include teachers and coaches who spend a huge amount of time with kids and influence their upbringing and future success.

Like it or not, our society has a strong dependence on athletes as role models for children and adolescents.

Athletes are role models whether or not they choose to take on the responsibility, and whether they are good or bad role models. But athlete “hero worship” wasn’t always as prevalent as it is today. There was a time when others served as America’s role models (civic leaders, clergy, legal and medical experts, etc.). It might be argued that the shift reflects decay in our nation’s moral standards.

On the other hand, some exceptional athletes have important messages for their fans. For example, former heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis made a significant contribution to youngsters’ understanding of appropriate masculine behavior, when he made a public service announcement that “Real men don’t hit women.” The point is clear: Athletes have an incredible opportunity to use their celebrity power to positively influence the next generation.

What are the qualities that make an athlete a good role model?

  • Enthusiastic about being a role model. The athlete welcomes the platform for promoting positive societal change—a willing crusader for good.
  • Altruistic mission. The athlete uses the position to share messages of inspiration and hope—a selfless drive to benefit others.
  • Makes a commitment to behaving in ways that reflect high moral values. The athlete acts in ways that support personal integrity.
  • Presents himself or herself in a realistic and responsible manner. “I’m not a role model because I’m a superstar jock, but because I’m a great person.” The athlete also helps fans realize that he or she isn’t perfect. After all, role models are only people with weaknesses and flaws. They’re not immaculate idols.
  • Freely devotes time and energy to community activities. The athlete makes appearances at neighborhood events, serves on local boards, works with charity organizations, etc.
  • Champions a mastery goal orientation. The athlete focuses on personal effort and accomplishments instead of making comparisons with others. In a sense, mastery-oriented people compare themselves with themselves. They can feel success and satisfaction when they have learned something new, seen skill improvement in themselves, or given maximum effort. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden captured the essence of a mastery orientation in his famous definition of success: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” (For more information, see my Psychology Today post titled “How to Be a Winner.”)
  • Possesses a keen sense of empathy. The athlete has the capacity to share or recognize emotions experienced by others. Empathy involves putting yourself in other people’s shoes and seeing how much you can truly understand them. It includes caring for others and having a desire to help them. Empathy motivates pro-social behavior designed to aid in solving communal challenges. As emphasized by Stephen R. Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “When you show empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
  • Displays a healthy balance between striving for excellence and having fun in the process. The athlete promotes the virtues of working hard to achieve goals and the importance of enjoying the journey.

A word of caution is warranted.

Youngsters who believe their sports heroes are the most fantastic people in the world and can do no wrong are vulnerable to disappointment. Why? Because examples of fallen stars are many, such as Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong who admitted to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. When a revered athlete goes astray, it can create disillusionment and even trauma. So, here’s the bottom line: Kids shouldn’t be allowed to become too attached to athletes as role models.

Learn more about parenting and coaching young athletes here.

How to be good at sports

This article is about some qualities that great athletes have. It will teach you some useful words and phrases for describing people in English.

Some of these phrases apply only to athletes, but a lot of them can be used for talking about successful people in all walks of life.

Phrases for describing a great athlete

What does it take to be a world-class athlete? What qualities do you need to have? Here are some words and phrases to use when describing great athletes in English:

  1. It takes drive.
    You have to be driven to improve every day. You can’t be satisfied with your last performance.
  2. It takes discipline.
    You have to be disciplined. You have to follow a strict exercise and eating schedule.
  3. It takes competitiveness.
    You have to be competitive and want to beat your competitors.
  4. It takes self-confidence.
    You have to be confident in yourself and believe that you’re a winner.
  5. It takes aggressiveness.
    You have to make moves on your own, not just respond to what other athletes do.
  6. It takes focus.
    You have to be able to focus on the task at hand and tune out any other distractions.
  7. It takes commitment.
    You have to be committed to your sport. You have to give up other hobbies and interests.
  8. It takes good time management.
    You have to be able to manage your time well. You practice for hours and hours each day, on top of school, work, and spending time with friends and family.
  9. It takes some amount of raw talent.
    You have to be naturally talented at your sport. This is something that certain athletes are just born with.
  10. It takes determination.
    You have to be determined. You can’t give up, no matter how hard it seems. When you lose a match or miss a goal, you have to get right back up and try again.
  11. It takes a high tolerance for pain.
    You have to be able to put up with a lot of pain, from pushing your body to its limits.
  12. It takes adaptability.
    You have to be able to adapt to different situations and new information quickly.
  13. It takes emotional maturity.
    You have to be in control of your emotions. You can’t let yourself get too nervous, to angry, too depressed, etc.

Do you have many of these qualities? Can you think of any other qualities that it takes to be a champion? Write about them in the comments below!

How to be good at sports

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Have you ever been to a game where people yelled obscenities at the players or referees? Have you ever seen parents belittle other people’s children for making a bad play? Letting negative emotions and outbursts steal everyone else’s enjoyment can get these people kicked out of the game. Or worse, it could cause a fight in the bleachers.

Good sportsmanship doesn’t end at the edge of the field or court. It continues into the bleachers filled with spectators who are most likely cheering for a favorite team or player. Whether you’re there to watch a professional team or your child’s Little League game, following proper etiquette will make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone there.

Parking Lot

When you first arrive, park in a legal spot. Whether your team wins or loses will be a moot point if your car has been towed during the game. Avoid taking more than one space, or you come back to find that someone who isn’t such a good sport has keyed your car.

Getting Seated

Find your seat as quickly as possible and be respectful of those around you. If a short person is sitting behind you, don’t lift a toddler onto your shoulders, blocking the view. If someone in front of you consistently blocks your view, politely let them know. Try not to take more space than needed on crowded bleachers.

During the Game

Positively cheer for your team. When someone makes a good play, it’s okay to yell out your support. During an exciting play, go ahead and stand with the crowd. Most athletes enjoy hearing cheers from the stands.

Avoid obscene language. Even during close and spirited games between strong rivals, foul language never does anyone any good. Most people don’t want their small children exposed to obscenities and adults who can’t control their bad manners.

During children’s games, leave the coaching to the coaches, even when you don’t agree with their calls. The coaches know more about the players as a group than anyone in the stands, and anything you holler might confuse the players. Avoid shouting at the children. They’re the ones on the field or court doing their best and trying to win a game. If they make a mistake, trust the coaches to let them know. On the flip side, don’t cheer when a player on the other team makes a mistake.

After the Game

Spectator sportsmanship continues after the game is over. As you leave the stands, avoid getting into an altercation with other spectators. There are gracious ways to deal with people spoiling for a fight. For example, don’t make eye contact or leave a comment that will rile up the angry person. And, don’t push or shove your way to the exit.

If you are there for a children’s game, avoid making any comments about children from either team. You never know when the other child’s parent, family member, or friend might be in listening distance. Most parents are extremely protective of their kids, and they’ll do whatever they can to protect them.

Players and coaches always appreciate kind remarks after the game is over. If you have the opportunity to talk to them, let them know you enjoyed the game, even if your team lost. Never tell them what they did wrong. First of all, it’s too late for that. Secondly, the coaches probably already know. The children already feel bad about any mistakes they made, and there is no need to embarrass them at this point further.

If the coach or parent leader has a special event planned for after the game, offer to help. Most of the time, they can use an extra pair of hands. If you have the financial resources to offset some of the cost, offer that as well. Use this time to reinforce the children’s efforts on the field or court.

Quiet Sports

Some sports require silence during specific times during the game or match. Respect this by honoring the rules and signals from the officials. Golf tournaments, billiards, and tennis matches require concentration, and a sudden sharp sound can ruin a good play.

Officials will have other rules in place that you need to honor. If you see boundary ropes or markings, don’t cross them. Many tournaments and matches forbid the use of cameras or flashes. Some events ban the use of signs and banners because they can distract players and obstruct the view of other spectators. Put your cell phones on silent.

Featured Columnist February 2, 2015 Comments Comment Bubble Icon

Sports have this amazing, unique way of making a positive impact in society. Whether it’s helping children, communities or even nations, sports make a difference on a daily basis.

Sure, nothing is all sunshine and lollipops, but there is good being done with sports as the platform. Team and player foundations are raising money for worthy causes, major events are boosting local economies and kids are encouraged to get out and get active.

So instead of focusing on off-the-field scandals or even the games themselves, let’s take a few moments to focus on nothing but the positives.

Sports represent a billion-dollar business—that’s no secret. But what you might not realize is the immensely positive impact sports have on local economies, mainly through tourism dollars.

In 2010, the New York City Marathon boosted the city’s economy to the tune of $340 million. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Chicago Cubs generate $600 million annually for the state of Illinois.

Part of the economic impact involves jobs. According to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., as of 2013, the sports industry in America produced 456,000 jobs (average salary $39,000).

These jobs include far more than just the athletes—EMSI looked at other occupations involved with spectator sports such as coaches, referees and agents. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the many stadium vendors and their employees, front-office personnel, etc.

Sports provide a platform for people to come together and support their country. International events like the Olympics and the World Cup serve as a point around which to rally and show national pride and unity.

During the 2014 World Cup, American fans turned out in en masse to support the men’s national team. FIFA reported that 200,000 World Cup tickets were sold to U.S. residents. The U.S. match against Portugal was one of the most-watched soccer games in U.S. history with approximately 24.7 million viewers.

Sports also have the power to lift people up in times of turmoil. The Miracle on Ice came at a time when tensions were high in the Cold War, and South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory helped a nation heal from decades of Apartheid.

Along with national pride goes city pride. There is a certain togetherness, a certain camaraderie that total strangers can achieve simply by virtue of living in the same city and rooting for the same team.

Look at the Seattle Seahawks. Their fans are so proud and united, they consider themselves part of the team, the 12th man on the football field. In fact, the Seahawks are actually trying to trademark the number 12.

Ask young children who their role models are, and I bet a good amount of them would name an athlete.

Recently, a 7-year-old boy sent his Pee-Wee football jersey to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. The boy, Anthony Tarantelli, included a letter and called himself Watt’s “biggest fan.” Watt, who has gained a reputation as one of the NFL’s biggest role models, responded by sending the young boy some gear and a letter of his own.

Matt Hammond of Sports Radio 610 reported that when asked if he considers himself a role model, Watt said, “I’ve always felt as though there’s people who look up to us, or look up to me, so I try to provide the best example possible. I don’t judge anybody else. I can only speak for myself.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese” in 2012.

Y oung people who look up to athletes might be more likely to get out and play sports themselves. As a more concrete example, sports leagues have done their part to get kids active and healthy. The NFL Play 60 campaign works to “tackle childhood obesity by getting kids active.” MLB has its RBI program, or Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, that teaches baseball and softball to disadvantaged urban youth.

Besides league-sponsored programs, the number of children playing sports in America in general is significant. According to Bruce Kelley and Carl Carchia of ESPN The Magazine, in 2011, approximately 21.5 million youth between ages six and 17 played team sports.

Besides helping children get active and healthy, sports participation can have other major benefits such as mental well-being and increased self-esteem.

Recently, a new study, “Sports at Work: Anticipated and Persistent Correlations of Participation in High School Athletics,” by Cornell behavioral science professor Kevin Kniffin found that sports can have a significant impact on employment outlook as well. According to the study, young people who played high school sports had a better career outlook and performed better in their jobs later in life.

Most teams and leagues have community-relations departments or charitable arms. This means that professional and collegiate athletes often spend time performing service in their communities.

In October of 2014, Boston Bruins hockey players visited a local children’s hospital for Halloween. They dressed up like characters from the Disney movie Frozen to help cheer up patients.

The athletic department at Northwestern launched a program called ROARR in 2013, or Reach Out and Reinforce Respect. ROARR is an anti-bullying campaign run by student athletes in collaboration with the athletic department’s community-relations team.

These are just two of many examples of teams and athletes supporting their communities.

It turns out that for many athletes attempting to maximize their athletic abilities, learning sport skills is the easier task compared to developing the focus, motivation and resiliency needed to succeed. Put another way, learning a sport skill (i.e. to throw a curve ball or accurately shoot a basketball) is simpler than developing daily motivation, or implementing stress coping skills to deal with frustration and adversity. Mental toughness is perhaps the most important set of skills an athlete can develop in order to maximize potential — even if dedicated training in this area is sometimes ignored or overlooked.

Passion & purpose

Successful athletes often have a passion and purpose for what they do — they are dedicated to their goals, and have specific goals they actively pursue. It is passion and purpose (intrinsic motivation) that helps us overcome life obstacles, focus on our goals, and outwork the competition. When you love what you do, what looks like work to others is simply an enjoyable activity to you. This is why passionate athletes are often the first ones to practice, and the last ones to leave.

I believe we all have passion and purpose in our lives, even if we are not yet clear what things in life prompt us to act on these qualities. Unfortunately in sports, not every athlete has passion and purpose for playing their sport — while some do, many play because they are good at the sport, or because others in their life (i.e. parents) expect them to play. While there is nothing wrong with playing sports without passion and purpose, I believe it limits athletes from reaching their full athletic potential. Many coaches and parents involved in youth sports struggle with this concept, as they see the natural talents some kids possess, but don’t see the “heart” and motivation suggesting intrinsic motivation.

Athletes with passion and purpose often submerge themselves in the process of their training. Of course, they may complain under the hot sun of a summer football workout, but in the big picture they appreciate all the hard work that goes into excelling in their sport. To be clear – having passion and purpose does not imply that athletes will love every moment of training, but instead suggests that they have the heart and motivation to push through the tough times.

When athletes do not have passion and purpose, the “holes in their game” tend to show through during tough times. Take for example when an athlete is playing well – everything is great and the athlete seems to play effortlessly. But what happens when a slump occurs? Without passion and purpose, the typical response is to give in to the pressure and stress, and/or begin to point fingers away from oneself and onto just about anything else (i.e. the coach, referee, other team, weather, etc).

When athletes have passion and purpose, they quickly move through tough times and stay hungry for the next day. Their resiliency is seemingly hard-wired into their DNA, and they understand and accept that they will take their lumps along their way to greatness. Stress and failure are actually accounted for in the passionate athletes mind, and therefore quickly (and successfully) dealt with efficiently.

Keep an eye out for your child’s passion & purpose

While it’s debatable whether you can teach passion and purpose, you can look for it. If you are a parent, take note of the things your child loves to do – what gets him up early in the morning and keeps him up late at night? Some of you reading this today can attest you see it in athletics, while others reading this may come to the conclusion that while your child is a pretty good athlete, she may not have that never-say-die commitment needed to reach her full athletic potential.

As a clinician who regularly sees athletes, its pretty obvious the ones I meet with who are completely devoted to their training, versus those who are pretty good at their sport but not necessarily passionate about it. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad; but the differences are quite stark and are usually good predictors of which athlete will stay in his sport longer (and more likely succeed in the long run).

Final thoughts

Finding your calling in life is both exciting, and a catalyst to assist in maximizing human productivity. For athletes, learning about what makes them go is a big part of athletic success, especially during those times of stress and adversity. If you are a parent or coach, take time to talk to kids about their passion and purpose, and help them align their thinking and behaviors so that they are congruent to those goals.

Almost 10,000 Good Sports clubs are using the program’s free tools and resources to build a policy around alcohol management, smoking regulations, mental health, illegal drugs, and safe transport. These together add up to help create a safe, welcoming, family-friendly environment.

About the program

Designed for busy sports clubs, Good Sports takes the guess work out of complying with legal requirements and gives you the upper hand when it comes to attracting funding, new members and volunteers.

What does a policy cover?

A Good Sports policy is tailored to your club. Generally, it covers six key areas. Alcohol management, smoking regulations, mental health, illegal drugs and safe transport.

How to join

Joining Good Sports is easy. Register today and follow a few steps to become an accredited Good Sports club.

How our program works

Good Sports is easy to use. The online portal is intuitive, and it’s a simple process to complete your action plan and sign a club policy. You can progress through the program at your own pace, and you’ll be prompted when you have actions to complete or a policy to sign.

Join Good Sports

  • Register your club for the program and create an account
  • Begin your questionnaire by answering questions about your club and processes you may already have in place
  • Action plan is generated and you’ll clearly see which tasks you need to complete.

Sign your first policy

  • Progress through the action plan until you have generated your first policy
  • Email your policy to committee members or take it to your next meeting to have it signed
  • Congratulations – you’re now officially a Good Sports club.

Gold Medal accredited

  • Continue through the questionnaire and action plan until you have completed all actions available
  • Have the committee sign your final policy
  • Congratulations – you’re now a Gold Medal Good Sports club, the highest level in the program
  • Check in every year to keep your policy up to date.

Good Sports Benefits

Good Sports has been helping build stronger community sporting clubs in Australia for over 20 years. The free program provides support in a few key areas to enable busy clubs to be the best they can be. Good Sports clubs stand out above the rest.

Fundraising and grants

Good Sports will keep you updated on current funding opportunities and give you tips on how to write a winning grant application. Sponsors often look favourably on Good Sports clubs, who are role models in their communities.

Attract members

Good Sports helps club with attracting and retaining members. We’ll support you to build on your safe and welcoming club culture and provide tips and resources to promote your club.

Attract volunteers

Volunteers are the beating heart of any community sports club. They bring the passion and dedication. Good Sports has practical toolkits and videos that will give you some pointers to increase your volunteer base.

Comply with legal requirements

Our program offers simple and effective ways to improve the way alcohol and tobacco is managed. We provide support to clubs to understand liquor licensing and smoking laws for each state and territory.

Get free access to staff, tools and resources

Make your club the best it can be with access to information packs, videos, posters and templates. Clubs tell us that creating their policy was simple, and it’s easy to find information on the online portal. Plus, Good Sports team members are always on call if you need a helping hand.

Information Pack

Good Sports clubs create a safe, respectful and positive environment where players, officials, members and families can thrive. Whether your club has hundreds of players or ten, has a bar or is alcohol-free, is in the big city or rural – Good Sports is a good fit. Sporting clubs that role-model healthy behaviours are leaders in their community, playing an important role to prevent and reduce harms from alcohol and other drugs.

Good Sports is for everyone

If your club would like more details on Good Sports, what it is and how it works, you can check out our information pack. There are printable resources you can share with your members or you club committee.

Good Sports knows that community sporting clubs are run by busy volunteers, and it’s designed with this in mind.

  • It’s easy to use, with a simple online portal that can be accessed on any device, anywhere and anytime
  • Takes the guesswork out of complying with legal requirements
  • Saves you time by generating a policy automatically based on your answers to a series of questions about your club – no writing needed
  • Needs a time commitment of only a few hours per year to keep your accreditation up to date
  • It’s free for all Australian community sporting clubs.

Good Sports – Australia’s largest community health sports program – has been helping build strong community sporting clubs across Australia for over 20 years.

Being part of Good Sports shows your community that your club is a welcoming place, helping to bring in and keep members and volunteers. It can also help you comply with legal requirements, and you’ll get free access to program staff, tools and resources.

Today almost 10,000 clubs are proud to be a part of the Good Sports team.

Clubs from over 70 sporting codes, in all states and territories are part of Good Sports. Any and every sporting code is welcome. Good Sports clubs range from football, netball, cricket, and athletics – all the way to gymnastics, dance, equestrian and dragon boating.

Good Sports – Australia’s largest community health sports program – has been helping build strong community sporting clubs across Australia for over 20 years.

Being part of Good Sports shows your community that your club is a welcoming place, helping to bring in and keep members and volunteers. It can also help you comply with legal requirements, and you’ll get free access to program staff, tools and resources.

Today almost 10,000 clubs are proud to be a part of the Good Sports team.

Clubs from over 70 sporting codes, in all states and territories are part of Good Sports. Any and every sporting code is welcome. Good Sports clubs range from football, netball, cricket, and athletics – all the way to gymnastics, dance, equestrian and dragon boating.

What Is Good Sportsmanship?

Good sportsmanship is when people who are playing or watching a sport treat each other with respect. This includes players, parents, coaches, and officials.

How Can I Be a Good Sport?

There are lots of ways you can be a good sport. You can:

  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Give your best effort.
  • Shake hands with the other team before and after the game.
  • Support teammates by saying “good shot” or “good try.” Never criticize a teammate for trying.
  • Accept calls and don’t argue with officials.
  • Treat the other team with respect and never tease or bully.
  • Follow the rules of the game.
  • Help another player up who has fallen.
  • Take pride in winning but don’t rub it in.
  • Accept a loss without whining or making excuses.

By being a good sport, you learn respect for others and self-control. These skills can help you manage many other parts of your life. They’re also key to becoming a mature, respectful, and successful adult.

More on this topic for:

  • Dealing With Stress In Sports
  • Sports and Exercise Safety
  • Choosing the Right Sport for You
  • 5 Ways to Beat Pre-performance Nerves
  • Confidence

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995- The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.

How to be good at sports

Knowing how to communicate effectively is the key to any relationship. Whether you’re giving a presentation at work, working out a disagreement with your significant other, or just having a chat with a friend, knowing how to articulate your ideas—and listen to those of others—is crucial. But though we spend much of our time each day talking to each other, that doesn’t mean we’re all great communicators. Communicating effectively can be surprisingly challenging. So whether you struggle to get your points across or just want to brush up on a few pointers, here are 11 ways to be a better communicator.

1. LEARN TO LISTEN.

Active listening is the basis of all good communication: If you aren’t paying attention to what others are saying, there’s no way you’ll be able to respond effectively. Focus on what your conversation partner is saying, and if necessary, repeat it mentally to make sure you understand the points they’re making.

2. PAY ATTENTION TO BODY LANGUAGE.

Pay attention to your conversation partner’s body language: Are they fidgeting or standing still? Yawning or smiling? Pay attention to your own body language as well—if your words exude confidence, but your body language expresses nervousness, your conversation partner will pick up on that. It’s important both to read others’ body language, and to pay attention to your own stance.

3. OBSERVE HOW OTHERS COMMUNICATE IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS.

It’s important to understand your audience. If you’re giving a presentation at work, study how others do it (or watch videos of famous lectures by academics, businesspeople, or professionals in your field). If you’re nervous about how to act at a networking event or party, take cues from the people around you.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID OF A BIT OF SILENCE.

Occasional lapses in conversation are natural, so don’t sweat it if conversation lags. Plus, letting pauses occur naturally is a good way to make sure you’re not interrupting anyone’s train of thought.

5. USE ACTION VERBS AND CONFIDENT LANGUAGE.

Even if you’re not feeling confident, you can still sound confident. One good trick is avoiding filler words like “um” and “uh” by slowing down your speech a bit. Another is using strong action verbs—use your resume for fodder and stick to descriptive verbs like “evaluate,” “manage,” and “advise.”

6. ASK QUESTIONS.

Ask clarifying questions: It’ll ensure you understand what your conversation partner is saying, and show that you’re paying attention.

7. FIND COMMON GROUND, EVEN IN AN ARGUMENT.

Finding a shared interest or opinion with your conversation partner is always a great strategy—it’ll make the conversation more enjoyable for both of you as well as show your conversation partner that you’ve got something in common. But finding common ground in an argument can be just as important. If you disagree with someone, try to find a related point that you do agree with—it’ll show you’re trying to understand their point of view.

8. BE PREPARED AND KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

Knowing your subject matter will put you at ease and make it easier to communicate your ideas to others. If you’re preparing for a job interview, make sure you are familiar with the position and the company; if you’re giving a presentation, know your stuff!

9. IF YOU WANT TO SUBTLY CHANGE THE SUBJECT, FIND A VERBAL BRIDGE.

We all occasionally end up in a conversation that’s not going in a direction we like. Finding a polite way to change the subject can be tough, but one good trick is finding a “bridge.” This can mean finding a topic somewhere in between the current one and the one you’re interested in or involve using a more general phrase that will help you shift the topic. For instance, phrases like “Yes, but,” “What I can tell you is,” or “The important thing to remember is,” all let you subtly shift the focus.

10. FIND THE BEST WAY TO FRAME YOUR STORY.

Whether you’re giving a lecture or telling your friend a funny story, it’s important to figure out how to frame it to make it interesting and engaging. Identify your hook (What makes your story interesting? Why would others care about it?) and pick a framing device: Are you taking your listener on a journey? Explaining a theory? Or making an argument for something? It’s important to clearly define early on where your story is going.

11. RELAX.

Though it’s important to be self-aware during an important or stressful conversation, ultimately one of the most effective communication strategies is just relaxing, and acting like you would normally—while, of course, remaining professional.