How do you become a better listener and communicator to improve your understanding of your partner?

Anonymous
I'm a pretty good listener, but I always tend to add my own experiences too much, not necessarily because I want to talk about myself but to establish a link between me and my partner. At least that is my goal, but I often fear it's misunderstood and doesn't really contribute much at all. If my partner is feeling down how do I respond without saying the cliché phrase like 'I understand', 'everything is going to be fine'.

In addition whenever my partner and I go into an argument, rather than trying to understand his point of view, I find myself trying to come up with my defense. How do I become I better listener so I can better understand my partner and have a more intimate connection?
How do you become a better listener and communicator to improve your understanding of your partner?
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