I consider myself to be an improving listener. I recognized I was not a good listener and thought about why. Maybe some of what I recognized about myself, and some of the things I've been able to do to help me as a listener are applicable to others.
I described the busy-ness of my mind in the "Don't give us hints" thread on the second or third page. I was told by one of the bright ladies on the board that the functioning of my mind is not uniquely male. Whether it is, or isn't, it was still what got in the way of me really listening to my wife. However; I noticed I listened well at work when we got into involved problems ... so where's the connection?
My wife and I spend a lot of time in different worlds. That doesn't stop when we get in each other's presence. I need to make an effort to get into her world, and she needs to recognize this about me and help me get into her world, and get into mine. If I'm just sitting, my mind is so busy that I don't process what she's telling me. So:
My wife is a very good hiker as am I. When we hike together, I noticed I listen very well - it's something we're doing together. My emotions are in neutral, and I don't get frustrated at interruptions because we are working on this together. I translated that into daily walks. She walks during the day with her friends, but I asked her to set aside time for the two of us to walk daily - it translated. I was able to listen as we were working together, and I didn't have to fight the busy-ness of my mind to be able to listen.
I made an effort to get more involved in the housework. My wife is our household manager, so I have to ask her for tasks I can do. On the tasks that we have to do together, I find again, the busy-ness of my mind subsides, and I am much more able to listen and talk with her. An example of this was that today, we re-arranged our theater room. It took all afternoon. We worked shoulder to shoulder on it, and had great conversation as we did this. This is not different from two men working together when we can talk easily.
My wife is not going to be able to listen to me if I try to get into technical details of my job - no problem since our areas of expertise are different. She listens very well about relationships on the job, though, and she has some very good advice. I don't want to complain about my manager all the time, for example, but if I'm a bit strained with him, I find she can listen and interact very well with me. I don't want her to solve my problem, but I find she has good input. This eases the busy-ness of my mind when I can share with her on this level, and with reduced busy-ness, I find I can listen better when it's my turn to listen.
If there are things I need to do that she can help with, I'll ask her to help. So, for example, when I needed to clean the branches out of the back yard after our last ice storm, I asked her to help. I promised her I'd help her with the kitchen and with folding the laundry when I was finished. This allowed us to work together on all three tasks instead of working separately on them as would seem more natural. She didn't have to do much heavy work on the yard, but being shoulder to shoulder with her and working once again broke through the busy-ness of my mind and I was able to listen and interact much more naturally. It extended, too, especially to the folding of the laundry as again we were shoulder to shoulder working, and interaction was very natural. Of course, it's good to turn the TV off when we're doing tasks like folding laundry as that only distracts both of us. Later, when we're through with the important interaction, then we can cuddle together and watch TV (sort of ... my attention span is too short to sit through many TV shows, so this becomes a time when I try to do something nice for her - usually the time I do something like paint her toenails or massage her feet. I enjoy doing these probably even more than she enjoys having them done ... to each his own
So my suggestion is: Ladies, watch your husband and see who he can interact with and what he's doing when he can interact easily. Can you get into those types of activities with him? If so, does he listen and interact better during those activities? Also, invite him to help you (I know, I know ... ). Maybe you can share all tasks instead of splitting up and doing different tasks separately.
Guys, maybe what works for me is also useful for you. I'll let you think it through and decide.
I know it sounds like I'm blowing sunshine again. It is working for me, and I am improving - I won't call myself good just yet, but I am improving. I just thought I'd post in my story in case it is helpful to someone else.