To become a better listener (which will automatically make you a better communicator), try the following:
1. Eliminate the distractions
None of us are as good at multitasking as we’d like to think. Turn off your phones and give each other your full attention. Remove the barriers to listening and it will become a lot easier.
2. Ask questions before you respond
Instead of just jumping into a response when your spouse finishes speaking, make sure you’re responding to what he/she actually said! You can do this be asking questions or even doing the exercise I mentioned in the first part of this post. Begin your response by summarizing their statement: “What I hear you saying is…”
3. Focus on giving support, not just solutions
Your spouse wants to be heard and not just so you can tell him/her what they need to do. They need your encouragement and support, not just your advice.
4. Speak in paragraphs, not “tweets”
I love social media, but the bombardment of constant information has lowered our tolerance for meaningful conversations. If it can’t be said in a short sentence, we don’t always want to hear it, but there are no shortcuts to effective communication. Take the time to do it right. Don’t rush each other.
5. Respond nonverbally while he/she is speaking
Don’t just stare off in space waiting for your turn to talk. A healthy conversation has only one person talking at a time, but both people are communicating the entire time. You can respond with your eye contact, facial expressions and non-verbals to let them know you’re engaged.