Want to change your life in 2014? Change the way you communicate. Geoffrey Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating, shares ten pragmatic communication strategies to help you get more of what you want, personally and professionally, in the coming year.

“Instead of considering the usual subjects for New Year’s resolutions—weight, exercise, appearance, and so on—why not focus on something a bit different this year?” asks Tumlin, author of the new book Stop Talking, Start Communicating. “Make 2014 the year you commit to improving your communication and watch positive consequences ripple throughout your life. Good communication = good relationships = good life. The most effective—and often the easiest—way to reduce the gap between the life we have and the life we want is to change our communication for the better.

“Communication—good or bad, effective or ineffective, healthy or dysfunctional—is how we make our life,” he adds. “One conversation at a time, we’ll create our reality in the new year. And while we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can control our words.”

Here, Tumlin shares ten communication resolutions to help you get more of what you want, personally and professionally, in the new year:

  1. Talk like every word counts. While words can build relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort, a thoughtless tweet, or a hasty remark can—and does—land people in hot water all the time.
  2. Listen like every sentence matters. The digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but, ironically, made it harder for anyone to listen. There’s just too much communication junk getting in the way. (Just consider the frenetic activity happening on Twitter at any given moment!) To make the most of our conversations, we need to reestablish listening to prominence.
  3. Act like every interaction matters. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesn’t seem to care. And it doesn’t take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye-roll to make someone feel like what she’s saying just doesn’t matter. We can’t afford to be the eye-rolling scowler who tosses cold water on people and conversations in 2014.
  4. Expect less from communication technology and more from people (including yourself). Because technology does a lot for us, it’s no surprise that we’ve collectively fallen in love with it. But in our enthusiasm for what our tools can do, we’ve lost sight of the people behind the tools. It’s time to turn that around. Our devices don’t possess the communication abilities we think they do.
  5. Don’t always “be yourself.” (Careless self-expression is usually an excuse for bad behavior.) “‘I was just being myself’ sounds harmless, but it’s often an excuse to indulge in destructive behavior,” points out Tumlin. “One single action—not allowing your feelings to dictate your words—will impact your quality of life profoundly in 2014: You will get what you want more often. By focusing on what you want to accomplish instead of what you want to say, you’ll keep your conversational goal in its rightful place—above your feelings in terms of priority.
  6. Question your questions. Most of us have poor questioning skills because we don’t think twice before blurting out a query. But questions aren’t insignificant; they are powerful communication tools because they change the trajectory of a conversation. As you’ve probably noticed, questions often make conversations worse. Even “simple” inquiries can go awry. “Is your mother coming over for dinner again?” or “Did you call Jim in accounting about this?” can cause trouble if the other person thinks there’s a criticism behind the query.
  7. Don’t put out so many fires this year. Our quick, cheap, and easy digital devices allowed us to have far too many unnecessary conversations in 2013, engage in way too much unnecessary collaboration, and get our hands (and thumbs) on too many irrelevant issues. That’s why smart communicators, like smart doctors, have a good triage system—its categories are Now, Delay, and Avoid—to focus on the most pressing issues, while delaying or ignoring less important matters.
  8. Let difficult people win. Jane talks too much. Jim is incredibly stubborn. Uncle Billy loves to argue. Your client is moody. Whether they’re controlling, critical, or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person tend to spark frequent confrontations—even though we’re unlikely to influence these people. For example, we wrestled with Jane many times last year to get a word in edgewise. We’ve struggled to change Jim’s mind dozens of times. We fired a barrage of points and counterpoints into Uncle Billy’s arguments every time we debated him—which was every time we saw him—last year. And we’ve tried to offset our client’s mood swings ever since we won the account. This year, it’s time to quit trying, insists Tumlin.
  9. Give weakness a chance. In 2013, we often used more force than we needed to accomplish our objectives. We yelled when a measured response would have worked better, we sent a blistering e-mail when a more restrained reply would have sufficed, and we issued an ultimatum when a firm but gentle statement of convictions would have been successful. The problem with that approach is that conflicts that start or escalate with excessive force frequently cause a destructive cycle—attack, retaliation, escalated attack, and escalated retaliation, etc. No matter how justified we may feel, the bottom line is that using excessive force isn’t usually a winning strategy. Our results from 2013—from the times that we overreacted to perceived slights and conflict—bear this out.
  10. Be boring. Modern culture promotes the false notion that communication should be as flashy, stimulating, and entertaining as the sleek devices that facilitate it. We assume that the best conversations are also the most exciting ones: the ones that are intense or high stakes, that bring big news, that are filled with emotion, or that contain something unexpected or novel. But look back on the “exciting” conversations you had in 2013: They were relatively rare and often didn’t go your way. In reality, good, meaningful communication usually looks plain, unremarkable, and boring. And guess what? That’s okay.

“How you choose to communicate will be a major deciding factor in how your year goes, professionally and personally,” concludes Tumlin. “To get more of what you want in 2014, improve your communication, and the positive changes in how you interact with others will cascade resoundingly throughout your life.”