Getting the last word in is something that I struggled with for a very long time. In almost every relationship, if there was conflict, I had to be heard. I felt it necessary that my words carry the ending tone. During my work with MSC and NLP, as well as my grad learning, I began to make connections with myself and I became aware of certain behaviors that may be inhibiting my ability to successfully form and maintain relationships. I found myself wondering; Why was this so important to me? Why did it matter? In the end, what was I trying to prove?
Now, there are a lot of avenues that this behavior can take us down...self protection, control, debate prone personalities, deflection, difficulties with trust...but my intention here is not to shed light on where this is coming from but more on how to first recognize it, then move towards ways to manage it, especially in everyday life and relationships.
So, what does it mean to ‘get the last word in’?
Essentially, getting the last word in is your drive and forward will to WIN a debate. In fact, you are inclined to do what it takes to be sure your point is heard and that’s it. I often refer to it as the “yes, but…” response to an argument or disagreement. This type of response, also known as destructive conflict resolution, can be hurtful and may send the message that being right is more important to you than establishing grounding within the relationship itself. Furthermore, such behavior can also damage relationships to a point where there is little or no movement for return.
If you feel like this applies to you, please know that we are living the human experience together. It is not like they teach us in high school how to resolve conflict peacefully; and even if they did, our lack of ‘prefrontal cortex’ might make it more difficult to truly comprehend the material. Fortunately, aside from formal education, we continue to learn from ourselves, our experiences, and from others as well. There is a way around this…
Let’s take a look at conflict using a different approach. Let’s begin by reimagining. Think about a time that you and a partner or friend had a heated disagreement. What was said? How did you react?
Now, I am going to ask you to send different thoughts into that situation-that moment where you had the last word, maybe something negative was brought up or there was a need for you to point fingers-acknowledge your feelings and send a breath of light into it. Using a soothing gesture, tell yourself your feelings are important and you do matter. And (key word here), your friend’s feelings are important as well. They matter too. Sit in that moment with yourself for a minute, or few. As you come out of it, sending love to yourself, reflect on what you would have liked for a friend to say to you had the roles had been switched. How might you have wanted them to respond, or, perhaps, not respond at all?
Okay, what strategies can I use to challenge this behavior?
Reflect on your reimagined space for a moment. What can you take away from this experience about yourself and your own conflict management? The first step, as with anything, is recognizing the challenges and then embracing the opportunity to grow.
Let’s take a look at some strategies we can use to tackle our destructive conflict resolution patterns...and if this doesn’t apply to you, but to someone you care deeply about, they may be used to encourage them as well!
Communication in all areas of our lives is essential. How we communicate, solve problems, respond to others, and express ourselves are important and 9 out of 10 times, they are a work in progress. We all, my fellow human friend, are a beautifully crafted, inspirational and motivational, work in progress.
Do you have other ways that you have worked away from destructive conflict resolution? We would love for you to share your kernels below!
For more reading on this subject, along with self reflective activities, check out Jeremy Pollack’s book Conflict Resolution Playbook: Practical Communication Skills for Preventing, Managing, and Resolving Conflict
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