Probably the first practice we can begin to improve our listening skills is to be silent more often.
To simply stop talking and feeling we have to say something at every break in breath or at the end a sentence, or when the other becomes silent, is an excellent way to become more conscious of our listening habits.
How do we do this without feeling weird?
When another person is talking, we can nod more and show attention with our bodies and faces instead of words.
We can catch ourselves when words start to come up and ask if the words are about us or the person speaking. If what we are about to say would shift the focus from the other to us, then we pull the words back in. If something slips out, we can say "Never mind. Go on. Tell me more about..." and then listen openly and silently.
If the other person gets silent, and we become uncomfortable, we can take a deep breath, focus on bringing space and compassion into our chests/hearts, and be with the other person energetically.
What's the payback for being silent more?
When we don't fill in the gaps, the other person has space to roam within themselves, not taken off their own mind map by our detours. They get to discover themselves spurred by our silent witness to their process.
Silence creates peace and space in a conversation, softening anger and confusion. When our heads aren't speaking words, we are able to sink into a feeling space and support the other person emotionally as well as get in touch with what they are feeling.
When we are silent together we can hear each other's hearts rather than the clamor of our heads.