William Penn, founder of the British colony of Pennsylvania in 1677 (the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is named in his honour), formulated six principles for conversation:
(1) Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary, and on those occasions, speak little, and last.
(2) Silence is wisdom, where speaking is folly; and always safe.
(3) Some are so foolish as to interrupt and anticipate those that speak, instead of hearing and thinking before they answer, which is uncivil, as well as silly.
(4) If you think twice before you speak once, you will speak twice the better for it.
(5) Better to say nothing, than not to the purpose. And to speak pertinently, consider both what is fit, and when it is fit to speak.
(6) In all debates, let truth be your aim, not victory or unjust interest; endeavour to gain, rather than to expose your critic.
In short: never speak without thinking! Give yourself time to incorporate wisdom into your words, avoiding those that make others feel intimidated or inferior. One of the best ways to persuade others is by listening to them. A gossip talks about others and a bore talks about himself, but a good conversationalist talks about what interests you, and listens attentively to what you have to say. The truth is, sometimes the more you speak, the less people remember. And they’re more likely to remember your words if they feel like you care enough to listen to their thoughts and concerns. The Bible says, ‘Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!’