The most important part of communication is to be a good listener — to practice what's called "Authentic Listening."

Authentic Listening involves three basic steps, which need to follow one after the other; you cannot jump to the next step until you've completely fulfilled the previous step. The three steps are:

a) Listening attentively to what the other person is saying without interrupting them.

b) Feeding back your understanding of what s/he is saying and feeling

c) Checking with your partner to confirm that you have understood him or her correctly.

The listening must be genuine. Eye contact, feedback and acknowledgement are essential aspects, but these will not work if they are used only as gimmicks to pretend that you are listening when in truth you can't wait for your partner to stop talking so that you could have your say. Authentic listening occurs when we are honestly prepared to put aside our own story and fully focus on understanding the other person's story. Using the right methods without the right intentions will not convey to the other person that they are worthy enough in your eyes to be heard and understood.

Authentic listening also means being prepared not to judge the other person for having certain feelings. Statements like, "Why are you so angry?" or, "Why are you so upset about such a little thing?" convey the message that the other person is foolish for having such feelings. This will in turn give him or her one more reason to be upset with you rather than focusing on resolving the problem.

Responses like, "I can see you are very upset by what has happened," or, "I didn't realize how hurt you are," or "If I were in your position, I would most probably feel the same," will convey to the other person that he is entitled to feel the way he does. Whether or not you agree that these feelings are justified is besides the point; the important thing is that you understand and accept that your partner feels this way. Only when your partner's feelings and thoughts have been acknowledged can the conversation progress for you to express your own feelings and thoughts and how you view the situation, and from there move on to the next stage which is problem solving.

You cannot skip over the "listening part" and go straight to solving the problem, because: a) you cannot truly understand what the problem is without knowing the other person's feelings; b) your partner is unlikely to be prepared to make the significant effort that's needed to solve the problem with a person who doesn't care enough to authentically listen to her and empathize with her feelings.

Tell your partner how important he is to you, how important it is for you to understand how she feels about the problem that has come up between you, and how important it is for you to resolve it. Then listen, give feedback and verify. You'll be amazed at how much easier solving the problem has become, and how much your relationship will improve as a result.

Try it, it works!