To begin with you need to start listening. What do I mean by listening? Stop planning what you are going to say next and really think about what the other person is saying. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if you were in that same position. Try to see through their lenses (based on their past and their desires for the future).
Once they are done sit back and give yourself some time to process what they said. And then restate in your own words what you think was being said. Summarize the key points of the dispute: “It seems to me that you are saying that we do not communicate enough and that I seem to want to spend time with my friends more than with you.”
This is called restating the problem. They may correct you and don’t get upset if they do. “No I’m not saying that at all!!! I’m saying you don’t know HOW to communicate with me because your too busy with your friends all the time!” Not much different but important in the other person’s eyes. Don’t ever contradict or argue.
Now you need to find some humility. Admit that there is some truth in what they say. Because no matter how perfect you are you can always improve. “I understand where you are coming from. I don’t always pay good attention to you when you talk and I do spend a lot of time with some of my friends.” Even if you feel that there is no truth at all in the accusation try to find something you agree on. “Your right, I could certainly grow in my communication skills and I need the reminder to put you first.”
Also acknowledge their feelings of hurt or anger. Don’t ignore these feelings that they have to you or discredit them. “Is it fair to say that this makes you angry and frustrated with me?”
Once you are on the same page with the offended part of the dispute, you can express your own feelings. You may see the truth that they are presenting but whenever this subject is brought up you shut down because you feel personally attacked. “When you talk to me like this I understand where you are coming from but I feel you have something personally against me and it makes me want to shut down. It’s not that I don’t hear what you are saying but when you raise your voice I feel belittled.”
Sometimes the thing that makes us most angry in a dispute with our significant other is the way they say things. So express how you feel in an understanding way. Acknowledge the truth but also address your feelings.
Finally, you need to ask how you can improve and change what is bothering them. Ask the other person what they would like to see you do differently. “How can I show you that I really want to hear what you are saying? How can I spend more quality time with you and make you feel like you are just as important as my friends are?” Don’t be tempted to simply offer your own solution. If the other person asks you can give you opinion or if they crossed a personal boundary (badmouthing you in front of others for example) you should address that. “I really want to change in those areas you mentioned. If you could take me aside in private instead of badmouthing me to my friends I think I would be more receptive to what you are saying.”