the last word

Zzyzx Road along the I-15 in California

[photo from slworking2]

Do you ever want to get the last word in?  Come on now, be honest!  You’re on your way out the door and you quickly say “good bye” or “see ya later” as you close the door.  Or if you’re on the other side you’ll shout out “yeah, see ya!” as the door closes.

Or how about that uncomfortable silence when you know a conversation is drawing to a close and both of you can’t quite decide how to end it.  Finally one of you blurts out, “well, I guess I should get going now” and the conversation quickens to a series of monosyllables as you “close off” the conversation- each of you trying to squeeze in that final parting word.

Maybe this urge to have the last word comes from a compulsion to have the last say in the topic.  As if in some way, by speaking last you leave the greatest impression.  Or maybe it is simply a secret claim to superiority – the triumph of getting that final word in demonstrates that whatever has been discussed, argued, communicated or bartered has been mastered by your verbal “cap” at the end.

Watching this take place in blog comments or forums is kind of funny sometimes.  No matter what the topic, if it’s controversial enough, you might just get lucky to witness the battle of the last word between the commenteers* (*yes a new word) – and are probably joining in yourself.

Here’s a thought.  Is the battle really worth it?  Does getting that last good bye, or “see ya later”, or some other semi-thought out last response to the response of a response related to the response to what that other person said or wrote – matter?  Maybe, sometimes.  But then, sometimes we just want to get in the last word because we want to appear more wise, or be right, or just be noticed.

This then is a clue to what may be more important – not that you have the last word but that you have a lasting word.  You won’t be known as much for the last words you leave as you are for the lasting words you make:  critique or encouragement, helpful advice or damaging folly, directing questions or confusing accusations.  So what are you known for?  Having the last word, or leaving a word that lasts?

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