1. Understand that good listening is almost entirely about how you RESPOND.
2. Think about how you talk to a 4-year-old. Then try to match that (within reason) when you're talking to an adult.
3. Actually pay full attention to what the other person is saying.
4. When you're responding, focus first on something you can agree with.
5. After you've found your point of agreement, use the word "and" to add to the conversation, and avoid the words "no," "not," and "but."
6. Sarcasm is the worst.
7. In social situations, being a good listener means being a good conversationalist.
8. When the other person is talking, listen for a key word or phrase, and then use it as a springboard to dive into your next comment or question.
9. Start your questions with the words "how" and "what" to leave them open-ended.
10. Don't JUST ask questions — you have to share information about yourself too.
11. If you can't relate at all to a certain topic of conversation, borrow your friends' stories and share those.
12. Learn how to interrupt with kindness.
13. First: Find common ground. Always, always.
14. It's OK to disagree with your partner. Just, if you're trying to be a better listener, you should do it in a way that's constructive, rather than defensive or dismissive.
15. If you find yourself getting emotional or defensive, take a break from the conversation and revisit it later.
16. If your PARTNER is being emotional, defensive, or not listening...try to pause the conversation then too.
Say the same thing: "This is getting pretty emotional and heated, and I'd rather we figure this out when we're both a little calmer. Let's take a break and revisit this in a few minutes."
Yes, sometimes this is easier said than done. Hey, we're talking about your listening skills, here.