Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Did you ever stop to think about whether or not you always have to have the last word in a conversation?

I've never been consciously aware that I was trying to have the last word, but maybe I was without even realizing I was doing so. I recall conversations with my husband and the exchange sometimes went beyond what could legitimately be described as a conversation. Actually, it moved into the realm of what might be considered a disagreement. Well, truthfully, when you get right down to it, the dialogue bordered on being an argument, or even crossed that border into full fledged verbal assaults on one another. Of course, our emotions were running high when we reached the full fledged conflagration level. That's when at some point he would invariably utter, "You always have to have the last word!" That accusatory, emphatically stressed sentence only served to inflame me more.

I started thinking about all this in conjunction with the realization that I had gone through my entire day and evening without uttering a single word aloud to another human being. Given that I am primarily a verbal person who is trying desperately to re-channel being so more into the written word, an occasional day like that sometimes leaves me contemplating my life, momentarily, just before my eyes close. Usually, my awareness that this has been a speechless day for me doesn't dawn on me until I go to bed at night, when my thoughts often review my day before I fall asleep. I remember the many years in my life when I would have sold my soul for even one such day of total absolute silence from speaking with another human being. My internal voice may even have voiced such a wish. Well, you know the saying, "Be careful what you wish for."

Now, about the question of whether or not I had to have the last word as he perceived, I guess, even that is a matter of opinion. I wonder if he was upset because he wanted to have the last word and I had unintentionally prevented him from doing so? I believe I've resolved that issue, but, unfortunately, he died too soon for me to share this bit of enlightenment with him. I've come to the conclusion he could very well have had the last word on numerous occasions if only his intended final sentences hadn't introduced more issues. How could I not address those? If he had only just acknowledged what I said, perhaps adding, "I don't agree," then said no more, I would have had no reason to think a response was in order. Unfortunately, we'll never get to test this system to determine how effective it might be.

Still, I have now found myself wondering if, in fact, I was unconsciously trying to have the last word in verbal discourse? If so, has this transitioned to my doing the same thing in writing? I've had some lengthy email exchanges with individuals in which I think my last comment is final (and these aren't arguments,) but the other person writes, adds something new and interesting, and off I go again. That cycle continues with neither of us ceasing to reply, yet I've been quite prepared to let the topic go and I've had reason to think, after the fact, that the correspondent has felt the same. What do we have here? Two last worders?

I'm fairly confident dialogue is one aspect of communication I practice most effectively professionally. How well I perform those skills in my personal life may be quite a different matter. I've read accounts of individuals who are very effective and skillful in their professional lives, but don't translate those actions into their personal life. For example, the plumber is most efficient with his customers installations and repairs, but doesn't provide that same superb service his spouse/partner might desire in their home. The same has been said to be true for other areas of work disciplines.

I'm not sure what the definitive explanation and answer is, but I'll be curiously more aware of my own talking and writing. This is my last word on the subject, no matter what comments any readers may leave. So, don't be trying to subtly seduce or blatantly accost me with the intent of tricking me into responding with a comment of my own to any you may write here.


  1. My husband says that to me all the time - and I am convinced that the only reason he notices that is because he wants the last word for himself!!

  2. I never needed to have the last word. I prided myself on being a good listener...always. Maybe it stemmed from the fact that my husband was a masterful conversationalist; actually he went beyond just conversation (as you mention JoAnn) and got into what he really loved...debates. He lived for it....and no one was safe. But there was no denying he knew what he was talking about. However, some of those debates ended in arguement or frustration with the 'victim' he chose to get into it with. I learned early on in our marriage to converse just so far...before any fireworks occured, and then just be a good audience. My kids learned the same lesson with their father...although they all seem to be able to debate with the best of them. I guess their dad passed on that particular gene. ~Joy

  3. Word to the wise...Texans will ALWAYS vie for that last bit of steak, that remaining morsel of fried tater, the few drops of Shiner Boch beer resting in the bottom of a frosted schooner, and obviously absolutely, The Last Word....LOL

  4. I'm never without the last word unless the party in question isn't worthy of a response. LOL

  5. My problem is that I'm losing words when I communicate verbally, which embarrasses and infuriates me. I also do it when I write but, because I can sit and wait, the word comes back eventually. Synapses, synapses. In addition, I want to thank you for your comment on my Arizona post. A few years ago, I wrote an article for Arizona Highways about a trip my mother, daughter, and I took to northern Arizona. Here's the link if you are interested:

  6. My husband is totally exasperating, because he refuses to debate or argue. This is a big problem which I have not been able to solve in our long marriage. I think it is because his father was a rageaholic, so all disagreements seem dangerous to him.

  7. Will this comment be the last word? :)