Key Signs You Aren't Listening To Your Partner Well (& How To Fix It)

Listening — and listening well — is an essential quality we should all try to master. Although there are times when distractions pop up or our head is someplace else, if we can learn to tune out the noise and be present when listening to our partners, our relationships will thrive because of it and our partners will feel better for it.


According to a 2018 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, participants who were paired with good listeners who were completely focused on what they had to say walked away from the conversation not only knowing they were heard, but had lower levels of anxiety, were more self-aware, and reported having a high clarity about what they were telling the listener. The takeaway: people need to be heard in order to feel good about themselves and what they say. It's a matter of respect.

Because listening is so important, especially when it comes to your partner, realizing you're not a good listener is something you want to identify in yourself.

You're waiting for your turn to talk

We've all been there: we're in a heated conversation with our partner and, as they talk, we spend the entire time waiting for our turn to speak. We may be hearing the words that are spilling out of their month, but we're certainly not listening because we know that at some point they're going to stop talking and we'll have our responses ready to go. Now think about that approach. Does that sound like listening at all?


As much as communicating in a relationship takes two people, if one of those people has already decided that what they have to say is more important — hence the waiting to talk — then that's not communicating. That's one person expressing themselves honestly and clearly. And that's another person chiming in with something they feel the need to say that may or may not be even remotely related to the conversation at hand because the latter person's entire time was wasted on what they were going to say once they had a chance to open their mouth!

You keep trying to interrupt

It doesn't matter if it's your partner, best friend, colleague, or a family member, incessant attempts to interrupt what another person is trying to say is the very definition of rude. It's also a major sign that you're not listening. Not even the greatest multitaskers in the world can listen to someone if they're too busy interrupting them at every turn. How can you possibly listen to someone if you won't even take the time to hear them out? You can't. Plain and simple.


Even if you believe in your heart that everything your partner is saying is wrong — and maybe it is — it still doesn't give you the right to interrupt. If you want to be a good listener, then you want to hear your partner out before responding. Shutting people down when they're trying to express themselves will leave them feeling disrespected and you wondering what they intended to say because you never let them say it.

You're more focused on getting your point across

Similar to just waiting for your turn to talk, if your focus in a conversation is to prove your point without trying to understand what your partner is saying to you or feeling about a certain situation, then you're not listening. Whether it's a debate about chores, an argument about where you'll spend the holidays this year, or full-fledged bickering over who ate the last cookie, focusing on your point or, even worse, trying to prove yourself right takes away from the conversation. It makes it all about you and your concerns, leaving little to no space for your partner to comfortably state their opinion or their side of the story. 


Maybe your partner has a reasonable case as to why you need to step up your participation in the chores or why that last cookie was calling their name and they had no choice. When the conversation ends, it won't matter to you because your focus wasn't there. 

You're unsure of your partner's perspective

If you and your partner engage in an entire conversation, then your partner asks afterward, "Do you know what I mean?" and you have no clue what they mean, then you definitely weren't listening. If you can't repeat back to your partner what they said and have zero idea as to where they were coming from and what they were trying to convey, then it's almost as if you just stuck your fingers in your ears and shut out everything like a child. 


Effectively communicating involves two people sitting down and talking about what happens to be the problem. It's about listening to each other's take on the matter at hand and opening not just your ears, but your mind to your partner's perspective. In turn, you should want them to do the same for you and they should do the same for you. Walking away from a chat where the actual perspective is cloudy means you weren't listening. It also means your partner might feel like you don't care.

You're simply not present

In a culture where we all have a lot going on, the ability to invoke mindfulness and be 100% present at all times takes a lot of work. Job-related stress, mental health disorders, worrying about family and friends, thinking a few days or weeks into the future, or any other outside distractions no matter their size, can impede one's ability to be fully present. If it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, then getting to a place where you're present, especially when listening to your partner, requires stepping outside yourself and joining your partner where they are mentally. 


"Being present means slowing down, bringing awareness to the moment that's currently happening versus engaging in the unrelated thoughts that may appear," licensed therapist Steph Tuazon, LCSW tells Mind Body Green. "We are constantly processing information that we're seeing, feeling, thinking. It's easy to have our attention split between the three and get lost in thought."

Learning to become truly present takes time and practice. You can't hear anyone if you're not present for them.

How to fix it

Being a good listener doesn't happen overnight. First of all, you need to acknowledge that your listening skills need work. That means realizing you tend to interrupt, you wait for your turn to talk instead of hearing what your partner is saying, and your brain is someplace else when it should be fully present.


Once you can admit that your listening skills are flawed, then you can work on improving them. For example, making eye contact when your partner is talking will allow you to put your focus on them instead of something else. If you start to feel your mind wandering — and it happens to best of us — bring yourself back to the conversation. If you miss something your partner has said, then apologize and kindly ask them to repeat themselves. Over time, you'll find yourself getting better and better at listening. Your partner loves you and respects you, so show them you feel the same by actively listening to whatever they have to say.