Something has been on my mind since this time last year. It stays there, because it was a day that I taught myself an important lesson.
Sometimes having the last word on something isn’t worth it.
Sometimes that last word doesn’t move a situation forward - it just sits there and rips more gashes in fabric that’s already been torn enough. It makes us spin our wheels and drive ourselves crazy.
I think we do this “last word” thing for a couple of reasons.
One – We have something at stake that we can’t stand to lose.
Once we stop the tossing the “last word” dictionary back and forth, a situation, relationship or conversation has come to a close and we have to accept it how it is left, how has defined itself. In the silence of words that are no longer being played, we have learn acceptance. We have to be ok with being wrong, or not being able to prove our point – or worse coming to terms with the fact that we have to let someone walk away and that nothing we can say can bring them back to where they were.
So , we pitch that last word out hoping they make the catch and throw it back just to delay the outcome. To give ourselves a fighting chance.
Two –maybe this is the same as One, but I’m going to say it differently – Addiction. Sometimes we don’t even care what the words are or what the outcome is, we simply get addicted to the process. The high of blasting out words in reaction to someone else’s words and the emotional thrill of getting them to respond.
I’m writing this because I’ve been on the inside and then on the outside of a tedious conversation lately. The more I watch it unfold the more I think, “Why is this still going on?” I can’t figure out what this person wants to get from the conversation or why it is being carried on.
It got me thinking about the day I was having my own difficult conversation and in trying to spare someone's feelings I told them something they needed to know before they heard it somewhere else. I told them I had too much respect for them for it to go any other way.
This person wrote back with an admission of something that had been kept secret and affected me very personally...something that stung a bit - then they categorized the too-late-to-be-respectful-confession as "mutual respect".
In my head I kept thinking – “it’s not respect when the only reason you told me was because I was open enough to tell you something and made it easy for. You have been lying.” I didn't want them to get away with feeling respectful when I thought they were not.
Then I asked myself, “What will I get out of saying that? Is there something else that I need to hear? Do I need this person to accept what I think about this, to validate me?”
My answer to myself was, “no.” So I zipped my lips and closed the email. I gave up the last word because there was nothing to be gained from it. And, I’m still glad I did.
Sometimes there’s more said in silence. The last word doesn’t always change the outcome...but it’s omission can preserve pride and save a few needless tears in the fabric of our relationships.
I need to remember this lesson more often.