Do We Always Need To Have The Last Word? What’s Behind It?

Last updated by Rosie Harlow

Today, I’m focussing on a habit that drives me crazy: wanting to have the last word. It’s probably because I’m not very good at comebacks or self-confident enough that I’m both fascinated and annoyed by people who always want to be right. But why do they always want to have the last word? What’s behind it?

Do We Always Need To Have The Last Word? What’s Behind It?

To have the last word or to be right: That is the question

Yes, indeed, that is the question. Having the last word may not be a habit for some of us, but that doesn’t mean we never do it. Let’s face it, when the subject is close to our hearts, we all want to have the last word, even if it’s some kind of inaudible gibberish that sounds like “you’re talking complete rubbish!”

🙃 Having the last word doesn’t mean you’re right. At best, it means you’re stubborn, that you refuse to let go, at worst, it means you’re arrogant.

But who are the stubborn ones?

Whatever the discussion, my father doesn’t give up and if the subject is politics or sport, it’s even worse, the conversation becomes a real fight. It’s annoying because you can’t say anything to the other person. It’s impossible to make your opinion heard! 🤐

Today, debate seems to have taken hold everywhere. You need to have an opinion on almost everything and on top of that, you need to have the last word. But why? So you’re not seen in a bad light? So you’re respected? So you look smart? Yes, that’s a big part of it. Having the last word allows us to protect ourselves, to be one of those who know, to silence doubt, lack of confidence, and failure.

A (re)taking of power

By forcefully and tenaciously ending a conversation yourself, you can say that you’re defending your position, imposing respect (imposing full stop), and taking power over others. However, this desire to always have the last word can also be a takeover of the child you were. What if, behind all these stubborn people who don’t give up, there are wounded children who rebel? 💪

I will no longer be silent

This is the case, for example, of children who weren’t listened to, who weren’t allowed to speak, or weren’t given the space to express themselves. Of course, there are also children who have been bullied, who have been forced to stay silent (due to bullying at school, domestic violence, or even incest, for example). Always wanting to be right means that they’re no longer the submissive, silent child they once were.

I’m in control

What could be more unbearable for someone who needs to control everything than the other person talking? Indeed, a conversation is anything but control. It’s impossible to know what the other person is going to say, every new sentence is a surprise, an unexpected event. The fact that we’re unable to let go, that we’re afraid of the unexpected, is, therefore, enough for us to cling to the only thing we think is reliable: our own words. That we impose again and again, ever louder.

How do you get the last word?

In general, I’d say that you shouldn’t always try to have the last word. Always wanting to be right in a conversation indicates that you’re in a competition. It’s therefore no longer a conversation, but a battlefield 🪖 with a winner and a loser. It’s not a climate very conducive to harmonious relations.

However, we’re not always saints, and sometimes we need to have the last word. When we doubt ourselves when we don’t have very high self-esteem, when we give in too easily and regret it, when we don’t have a comeback, when we don’t know how to express our arguments, etc. Faced with someone who’s always imposing themselves and shouting the last word, we can easily opt for silence or sulking, but we can also try to have the last word... when it’s necessary. So how do we do it?

  • Choose your battles: Don’t fight over something trivial. Not all discussions should lead to a free-for-all. You need to learn to let go and ask yourself: do you really need to have the last word in this conversation?
  • Sharpen your arguments: Don’t go into battle unarmed, so there’s no point in trying to be right if you don’t know anything about the subject. If on the other hand, you have information, knowledge, and arguments, you gain confidence and insist or rather demonstrate and convince. Don’t forget that the best way to have arguments and an opinion on things is to be curious and open-minded. So don’t get tired of discovering.
  • Don’t try to win: Sometimes the best way to have the last word is not to try to have it. So listen to the other person, really listen, soak up their opinion, empathize, and maybe concede a “you’re right”. “You're right” is still the best way to have the last word and defuse a potentially tense discussion.
  • Manage your emotionsA message that is interfered with by our emotions often becomes a troubling message. If anger or tears arise, take time to breathe or to slip away. The secret is to understand that the person who shouts loudly isn’t the most powerful, and the person who cries isn’t the weakest. It’s not a question of that, but remaining calm always makes it easier to follow through on your thoughts.

Editor’s note: A habit that’s a sign of suffering...

A pathological need to have the last word, whatever the subject, is a sign of suffering, a traumatic event from the past. If you’re unable to let someone have the last word and if this bad habit is damaging your relationships, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a psychologist. Together, you’ll be able to understand where this behavior comes from, trace its origins, and put in place new habits that will allow you to live happier.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Rosie Harlow

Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. For as long as I can remember, I have always used paper as a punching bag. Get to know me, I am Rosie Harlow.

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