Do you need to have the last word in an argument? Why is it so hard to let the conversation die without having the last say? What drives this compulsive need to make the last point? The most powerful last word may not be what you think!
Why do we have to have the last word?
“Right Fighting” – Somewhere in our lives, we learned that in order to feel loved, we had to be the smartest person in the room.
Validation – We have a strong need convince others that our point is valid so that we have permission to feel our own feelings.
Control – We may have deep abandonment or shame and need to control whether the other person approves of us or we may be trying to protect ourselves by abandoning the other person first.
Whatever the reason, I talk with my clients constantly about how to respond when someone is coming at them. I liken it to someone lobbing a bomb over into your camp and you get to choose whether you select a comparable one from your arsenal and lob it back over into their camp or let it hit the ground and fizzle out.
When we heft one back over into the other person’s camp trying to have the last word, we are actually adding to the problem. Now instead of one problem, we have two problems to deal with – their unhealthy responses, and ours. And given that we have trouble enough solving one, solving two problems at the same time feels nearly impossible.
When someone responds negatively to a situation and we let the bomb fizzle out, then it is their negative energy that is hanging in the air. Their last venomous words are the ones ringing in their ears when they lay their head on the pillow to fall asleep at night.
So what is the most powerful last word? It is no word at all. Thud. The bomb drops and we watch it fizzle out. Offering forgiveness and understanding weilds way more power than any sharp retort. Understand that the person who is hurting you is hurting. Understand that the person has no other tool in their tool box other than the bomb they just threw.
Understand that if that is the only way they know how to respond when they are hurting and you return fire, you only make them dig deeper into their aresenal in order to deal with their pain. And now they have more pain to deal with because you’ve added to it. Instead of engaging in the fight, offer understanding and wait until the person isn’t in so much pain, then try to approach them lovingly.
The satisfaction of inflicting the last blow only lasts a minute. The glory of being right only lasts an hour. Getting someone to approve of you may only last a week, but the power that comes from you learning how to control your own behavior is something that will last a lifetime.
I know that what I’m suggesting requires considerable strength, wisdom and maturity, but I can assure you that the fighting will stop when you finally stop fighting!