Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Small Talk Gets Smaller as Former Chatterbox Ages

DEAR ABBY: When I was a kid, I was called a "chatterbox," and it continued until my mid-30s. Somewhere I came across the saying that it's better to be silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. It made sense to me, so I shut up.

Now I'm close to retirement, and people complain that I don't talk enough! I detest social gatherings where I must make polite conversation with people I don't know. And with people I do know, I'm afraid of saying too much. Any recommendations? -- FORMER CHATTERBOX IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR FORMER CHATTERBOX: Conversation isn't supposed to be a monologue; it is supposed to be a dialogue -- an exchange of information. If you find yourself dominating a conversation, pause, ask questions and listen to the answers. For those who say you don't hold up your end, consider making a list in advance of topics you consider safe (excluding sex, politics and religion) and refer to it if you feel stuck. And, if you don't know how to begin, lead off with a compliment.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Aging