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 emotions: A 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.
What type of personality has to have the last word?
The need to have the last word can be observed in a variety of personalities, but is often more pronounced in people with dominant or competitive traits. Here are a few personality types who may feel a strong need to have the last word:
- Dominant personalities: Individuals with dominant personality traits tend to seek control and want to be in a position of power. They have strong self-confidence and may find it difficult to accept being contradicted or losing an argument.
- Competitive personalities: People who are competitive by nature may feel a need to have the last word in order to feel victorious or superior to others. They often see debates or discussions as opportunities to prove their intellectual superiority or expertise.
- Authoritarian personalities: Individuals with authoritarian personality traits may be inclined to want to exert their power and authority in all situations. They often have a strong conviction about the rightness of their ideas and opinions, and may be reluctant to yield to others.
- Narcissistic personalities: Narcissistic people often have a compulsive need to feel superior and to be admired. They may have a fragile ego and a constant need for validation. As a result, they may strive to have the last word in order to maintain their sense of superiority and dominate interactions.
How to deal with a person who always has to have the last word?
It's unlikely that you'll be able to change a controlling person's mind, so your best tool will be assertiveness. When you are led to deal with a person who constantly has to have the last word, it's important that you are clear about your point of view, your arguments, and your decisions, and that you stick to them. You don't need to apologize or justify yourself, just express what you think, feel, and want with respect and clarity, and act accordingly. These are usually very insistent people, who will persevere to get you to grant their wishes and will even get annoyed if you don't (especially if you used to give in to their requests before). Nevertheless, stay put until the dynamics of the relationship change.
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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