Now that the holidays are over and a New Year is upon us, it is a perfect time to look anew at the relationships in our lives.

Throughout the holidays, as families gathered and people were out-and-about, my inbox was flooded with inquiries about relationships on all fronts. People wondered how to deal with co-workers, how to handle family members and how to respond to that random shopkeeper or passer-by who had an unkind word.

With the struggling economy and shifting job market, much of what we once felt we could count on is now missing. Relationships with the people in our lives have clearly become the thing we rely upon for feelings of security and reliability.

Nearly all of the conflict I hear from people stems from some form of a lack of communication, a misunderstanding or an inability to connect the ideas they are trying to convey.

The good news? This can be remedied. We have the power to make the changes in our own lives.

Try these 10 tips to expand your communication skills and improve your relationships. The benefits have infinite value.

1. Take Control Where You Can. Remember what is true: we have no control over what other people say or do, but we do have control over how we choose to react, respond and engage.

2. Be Clear. If you expect to be understood, you must express yourself clearly. Make an effort to learn how to communicate to the best of your ability.

3. Be Proactive to Avoid a Misunderstanding. If you’re unclear about what someone says, ask them to clarify in the moment. Don’t wait for the misunderstanding, instead, catch it before it happens.

4. Remember the Golden Rule. Use yourself as the gauge for how what you are saying or doing may be received. Picture yourself on the receiving end of your comments or actions, and decide if that is indeed how you want to handle the situation.

5. Determine the Worth. Remember that none of us is exonerated from making a mistake. Consider forgiving a mild offense immediately and moving on. Your energy is precious and should not be wasted.

6. Be Honest With Yourself. If you find that conflict surrounds or follows you, acknowledge that the common denominator is you. You don’t have to share that finding with anyone, just note it and make adjustments immediately.

7. Pay Attention to How You Are Received. What matters in communication is not what you intended, but how it is received. This is a common and tricky issue. If you find yourself constantly assuring others that you were well intended, you may be a person who needs to better connect how you mean to impact people with how you are actually impacting them.

8. Study Your Weaknesses. Knowing and acknowledging your own flaws in communication is key. Are you best with the written word, or prefer the open word? Know your strengths, but stay open to moving and improving your weaknesses.

9. Stay Committed. Commitment is the only guaranteed way to change the pattern of your own life and, in turn, make your relationships with others the best they can be. Commit to making some changes in the way you deal with and react to people. All of us could use some adjusting.

10. Be Alert. Most of the conflict with the people around us can be avoided, but not without you making the effort to see to it first. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it one million times. Life is short, so make an effort to see where and how you can better communicate.

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