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The Last Word

When we are in an interpersonal conflict we may find ourselves reacting when the other person tries to have or succeeds at getting the last word. Or, we may be the one who is trying or succeeds in doing so. According to one source, the definition of the phrase the last word includes: “the last thing said in an argument”; “information that everyone considers to be the best”; “the right to make a decision that everyone must obey”; and “the newest and best type of something”.

The general interpretation – when we or others assert ourselves by having the last word – is of someone needing to prove superiority and be right. On the receiving end of assertions of this nature the general feeling is often one of frustration because there is no apparent room for discussion.

Further, when this sort of dynamic occurs the conflict is bound to lack true resolution. The person who has the last word may act as though she or he has “won”, and often antipathy grows in the heart and mind of the other person. It seems at these times that the last word is the first sign of a disconnect in the relationship and indicator of how conflict matters are discussed with one another.

If you tend to want the last word or react negatively to others who do, this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog will hopefully help you consider its impact.

  • When you have been in conflict with another person and she or he wanted or got the last word, what was the nature of the dispute? What did you perceive as the last word the other person asserted?
  • What happened regarding this conflict after the other person got the last word? What happened in your relationship?
  • What was the impact on you when she or he got the last word?
  • What do you wish you had said in response? What stopped you from saying that?
  • If you had the last word in that conflict, what would it be? If you and the other person scripted the last word together how might it read?
  • If you have ever had the last word in another conflict, what compelled you to assert yourself in that situation?
  • What happened regarding that conflict when you got the last word? What happened to the relationship?
  • In what ways might a “first word” be more effective in a conflict than the last word?
  • What difference does it make whether or not you get the last word in a conflict?
  • What lessons are there to be learned about this topic?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

P.S. Incidentally, Wikipedia, in a tongue and cheek way, provides suggestions on why and how to assert the right to the last word (abr. TLW™) over competing editors.

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