BE A BETTER LISTENER OR JUST LOOK LIKE ONE
Listening is actual, physical work; your heart rate picks up, your body temperature rises and your breathing increases. It only seems easy because our minds understand speech much faster than we speak (600 or so words per minute versus 125-150 words per minute). Since we can figure out what the speaker is saying faster than they can spit it out, we have plenty of time to daydream. Stay alert and focused on the speaker's message to keep your mind from wandering off. And ditch the external distractions, like the blaring television or loud music.
Most of the time when we're "listening" we're really just planning what we want to say when it's our turn. Use your listening time to try to understand what the speaker is actually saying. If you simply must open your mouth, use it to ask questions or paraphrase the message to let the speaker know you're really trying to get it.
Often we stop listening when we assume we already know what the speaker is going to say, or that it's not important or too hard to understand anyway. Try to remember a couple things here: first, that you have to get what your partner is saying before you can make judgments on it, and second, that you don't have to agree with your partner, you just have to understand him/her.
Know your role
Is your partner just looking to vent or seeking your advice on something? One of the most common complaints from women when talking to their men is that men believe they need to provide all the answers to her "problems." When she wants your suggestions, she'll ask. Otherwise, assume she's just venting.