The Last Word (and the beauty of not having it)
We’ve all been there. You’re in a “discussion” with your partner, spouse, friend, parent, co-worker. You’ve both made your points and feel the conversation coming to a close when, all of a sudden, you’re compelled to repeat your point one more time or add a final zinger. You feel the words deep in your stomach, traveling up through your chest and….BAM. There it is. The last word. So satisfying.
What does having the last word really accomplish? In my experience, not much. Throughout my career, I’ve spent what I consider to be too many minutes of my life dealing with people who radiated such a desperate need to have the last word that I often felt embarrassed for them. We’d get to a point in the conversation where I would just agree with them (to avoid further interaction) and, with wide eyes and sweat forming on the brow, they’d prolong the pain with a really long, drawn out final word. In that instant, my waning tolerance for the situation would disappear completely.
The other night, my husband and I were having a normal conversation that, due to our collective fatigue, morphed into a more of a “discussion.” I had already made my point…okay, points… and he was responding and making some of his own. I felt myself calming down and truly listening to what he had to say…empathizing, even. I reached out to hold his hand and….there it was, that last word sensation again (“Just to sum things up…”; “So, like I was trying to say….”). I fought it. Instead, I smiled and squeezed his hand. “I understand you,” I said. “You too,” he replied. Far more satisfying.