How to Be a Better Listener

(and open your partner’s heart)

Learn common mistakes bad listeners make, how you can avoid them, and the best strategy to create more intimacy through effective listening. 


By Dr. Roz

If you’re like me and have a million-gazillion things going on AT THE SAME TIME, this gone be hard to hear.

No, literally if you’re doing something else right now (or even thinking about what you need to do next), you won’t learn how to be a better listener.  Because here’s the truth: if you’re only half-way paying attention, you’ll miss this entire point….

A few years ago, as a desperate, bored to tears grad student,  I tried to become a boot-legged speed reader. 

I thought, “How hard can this really be??”

It was one of four 15-page single spaced articles. I finger-skimmed through the first 3 paragraphs. Three times.    

Then, the same sentences, a little slower.

A wasted twenty-five minutes of my life later, I didn’t get how people could do it—and still understand what they were reading. 

Truth is, they really can’t. 

Scott H. Young, author of 7 Must-Know Strategies to Learn Anything Faster, busted that myth.  People who claim to be able to read 20,000 words a minute are sitting there staring at that page.  Not reading nothing.  Turns out, the faster you read (anything more than 500-600 words per minute), the less likely you’ll be able to comprehend it.

Here’s my point: While many people spend too much time trying to speed through this and rush that, we miss out on ALOT of important information. 

How many times have you had misunderstandings with your significant other because you weren’t practicing effective listening skills?



One thing leads to another and their like, “Nevermind. You don’t even care!”

Then, you’re like “Whatchu mean I don’t care? I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care!”

Now ya’ll tangled up in a random, senseless misunderstanding.

That’s why I really wanted to touch on how to be a better listener, so you can avoid the nonsense fights and miscommunication. 

Getting in tune with your partner requires effective listening.

It requires you to slow down and focus. 


“Behind every complaint there is a deep, personal longing. Good listening builds more love and trust.”

5 Common Habits of Poor Listeners in Relationships (And How to Fix It)

  1. They focus on themselves. Poor listeners want to be interesting, rather than interested, so there’s a lot of emphasis on who they are, what they need, and how they feel. But effective listening shifts the focus off of you, at least while you’re listening.

    This is something you have to mentally prepare for by putting your agenda out the window and being open to let the conversation ebb and flow with whatever your partner is saying.

  2. They’re uncomfortable with hearing pain. Listening to anger, sadness, fear, or crying triggers this automatic response that can tempt even the best listeners in the world.

    For example, here’s some common mistakes people make when listening to anger: taking it personally, apologizing, getting defensive, or even trying to lighten things up by trying to make them laugh.

    This creates nothing but distraction.  It can be frustrating for them. The best way to handle listening to anger is to take it seriously and try to understand it, even if you don’t agree with it.

  3. They can’t put themselves in their partner’s shoes. To be a better listener, you have to see your partner’s world from their perspective, not yours.

  4. They give advice before knowing what’s really going on. Anytime someone comes to you with a problem, it’s super tempting to try to roll out an answer or suggestion.

    That’s a bad idea, especially if no one’s asking for advice. The remedy is to follow-up with exploratory statements. One of my favorite things to say is “Tell me more about that.” or “Tell me the story of that.”

  5. They don’t ask questions. Okay, this is the worse because it can lead you back through the tunnel of any of the mistakes I just talked about. Questions make it easier to take the focus off of you and go deeper into their pain points. Deeper into you being able to tune into how your partner is feeling.
How to be a better listener, Effective listening, Listening skills, Questions to ask your significant other
Good listening can build love and trust.

How to Be a Better Listener So You Can Create Intimacy  

While many effective listening skills come in handy for work, these are great because they build love and trust.  

Step 1: Be Prepared

Imagine you’re getting ready to watch your favorite TV Show (Grey’s Anatomy? Monday night Football?). Think about the steps you’d take.  Would you gather your popcorn, change into something more comfortable, or get into your chair (I have a favorite recliner I hop in every Thursday night)?  In the same way, get ready to tune in and turn on your partner’s channel.

Step 2: Be Present

This is all about feeling and not doing.  

Don’t be critical, judgmental, defensiveness, or try to put your partner down (or act like you know better).


Ask questions and listen for answers. Do practice empathy. And please breathe.

Step 3: Be a Witness

You’ve just witnessed a robbery and the police come up to you to ask what happened. Your only job is to spill the beans with the facts. What do you see? What did you hear? Who was involved? What did the suspect look like? Knowing these details makes for a great witness.

You gotta be a witness while listening to your partner by reflecting back exactly what you heard them say.  This is a really great effective listening skill because it’s the only evidence that you were really listening. In turn, your partner doesn’t feel so alone.  

21 Intimacy-Building Questions to Ask Your Significant Other as You Listen

Sometimes, you can be at a loss for words about what exactly to ask so here’s some questions that’ll help you go deeper into your partner’s world and open them up more to share true feelings.  

  1. How you doing, honey? (Okay most of us epic fail at this one. BUT today and the next, you’re going to use this q to check your significant other’s emotional temperature.  Really ask because you want to know, not just because you’re just trying to be nice.)

  2. What are you feeling?

  3. What else are you feeling? (yessss, go deeper.)

  4. How’d this all evolve?

  5. Do you have mixed feelings here? What are they?

  6. What are the feelings here you’re afraid to even think about?

  7. Do you have a choice to make?

  8. What would you really like to ask of me?

  9. What do you see as your choices?

  10. What’s the positive and negative aspects of each of your choices? (A bit of a warning, here: Do not get into trying to problem-solve.)

  11. Is there some way you wish you could’ve done things different? How so?

  12. Think of somebody you really admire. What would he or she do and how would they view this situation?

  13. Do you think this has affected our relationship (or another relationship)? (keep digging… If so, how?)

  14. Does this remind you of anything else in your past?

  15. How’d all this begin? What was the very start?

  16. How’d you think things would work out in the next five years?

  17. How’d you wish things would work out in the next five years?

  18. Will this even matter to you in the next five years?!

  19. Pretend that you had only six more months to live. What’d be most important to you then?

  20. What, if anything, makes you angry in this situation?

  21. Are there parts of you that are in conflict?

What’s one insight or key takeaway you got from this article? What’s something you’d like to try differently to tune into your partner so they feel understood?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Important: please share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments. Links to other posts, videos, etc. may be removed.

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Thank you so much for reading and sharing ideas, opinions, and aha’s with a growing community of folks who are committed to making their relationships work.  You are truly appreciated.  

Sending so much love your way,

Dr. Roz

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