There are myriad ways that you can disengage your listening and bring the focus back to yourself. One of the most common is to express that you have the same feeling as the speaker, e.g., "I feel that way too!" Sometimes this is connecting and sometimes it distracts you from what the other was saying. For example, your partner expresses their disappointment around missing intimacy with you and you say, "I miss it too, you know." This "me too" response can trigger a sense of competition or blame. You both might start gearing up for an argument about who has been wrong or who is suffering the most.
Regardless of whether you perceive what is shared by another as positive or negative; every moment there is something new alive in you. In casual conversation sharing this aliveness creates connection. But when empathy is needed, chiming in with "me too" distracts from the giving and receiving of empathy. One of the most helpful relationship skills you can cultivate is honoring what's alive in you while setting it aside long enough to fully hear the other when empathy is needed.
This means slowing conversations down. It means checking in to see if the other person really feels heard. Then checking to see if they are willing and ready to hear you before switching to yourself. This mindfulness in conversation allows for a deeper intimacy and understanding which then gives rise to creative solutions and natural shifts in the heart.
This week notice how long you are willing to listen to another before you bring a conversation back to yourself. Experiment with telling the speaker what you heard and asking if you got it.