There are so many variables at play in business relationships. There’s a lot to understand about what’s going on.

These 5 tips don’t cover everything, but if you can master them, they will take you a long way.

Defensiveness. This is acid on relationships. Do what you can to avoid causing others to feel defensive. Avoid creating one-up one-down situations. And try to avoid feeling defensive yourself; try to focus on the remaining objective in difficult situations. This helps quell defensiveness in everyone.

Perception. Each person on earth perceives things differently. We may think we’re seeing the same thing; in actuality, our brains see it in our own unique way. Keep this in mind especially when you disagree. Respect that the other person may not be stupid or crazy — they just see it differently. It’s incredibly useful to simply ask them how they see it. You can learn a lot. And when you disagree, it’s also incredibly useful to start with something like, “I see it differently. The way I see it…”

Listen. Listen truly fully. Don’t engage that part of your brain that wants to counter what you’re hearing, or find the flaw or ready a list of responses. Just listen. Soak it in on all channels. I guarantee you’ll learn more.

Paraphrase. When it’s appropriate, paraphrase in your own words what you heard the person say. Important: be sure to ask if you got it right so they can clarify any missed bits. A good paraphrase sounds something like this: “What I heard you say was XXX. Is that right?”

Assume positive intent. Infer the positive intention behind what someone’s saying. This is difficult to do when you’re feeling the emotional smack of a put-down. Realize that few people intend to discount; it just happens (perception, remember?). So pause for a moment and consider the positive intent. A couple of examples: “She wants this to move forward so she wants us to stay under the budget,” instead of, “There she goes again! It’s always about the money with her,” or “He’s concerned about management understanding this so we can get approval,” instead of, “He’s such a suck up with management.”

If you get the hang of communicating this way, people will really enjoy your company. You will notice the difference. People will be more willing to listen to you because they know you take the time to understand where they are coming from.