Step 1: Don't interrupt and don't impose your "solutions."
Children used to be taught that it's rude to interrupt. I'm not sure that message is getting across anymore. Certainly the opposite is being modeled on the majority of talk shows and reality programs, where loud, aggressive, in-your-face behavior is condoned, if not encouraged. Interrupting sends a variety of messages such as thus: "I'm more important than you are", "What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant", "I don't really care what you think", "I don't have time for your opinion", "This isn't a conversation, it's a contest, and I'm going to win", etc. When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions. Most of us don't want your advice anyway. If we do, we'll ask for it. We need you to listen and help us do that. Somewhere way down the line, if you are absolutely bursting with a brilliant solution, at least get the speaker's permission.
Step 2: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
When you don't understand something, of course you should ask the speaker to explain it to you. But rather than interrupt, wait until the speaker pauses. Then say something like, "Back up a second. I didn't understand what you just said about…"
Step 3: Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
This particular conversational affront happens all the time. Our questions lead people in directions that have nothing to do with where they thought they were going. When you notice that your question has led the speaker astray, take responsibility for getting the conversation back on track.
Source: Dianne Schilling (MSc in Counselling and a founding partner of WomensMedia).