Why do some people need the last word?
What’s appealing, rationally or not, about the last word?
You see it all the time on social media when people get into small or heated arguments. But the phenomenon existed long before social media or the Internet.
The appeal of “having the last word” coincides with the desire to be right.
In one sense, there’s nothing wrong or unhealthy about wanting to be right. Who wants to be wrong?
But there are different contexts, psychologically, for wanting to be right. One context is social. The other is what philosophers call epistemological.
The social context means, “I’m right because I’m seen as right. And I want to be seen as right.”
The philosophical or epistemological context means, “I’m right because the facts, evidence and logic supports it. I know I’m right.”
A sense of satisfaction from the second is the kind a person with authentic self-esteem feels. But paradoxically, that same person with self-esteem no longer feels a need to be right. Because he knows he already is. If others express recognition of that fact, well that’s nice — but it’s not necessary.
So the people who MUST have the last word about something reveal something about themselves. They reveal that they NEED to be right, and they need that verification and validation socially and interpersonally — not objectively, like the person with authentic self-esteem.
Other motives exist for wanting the last word. One is a false belief that, “If I said it last, then that means I won. My opponent has no answer.” That’s not always true. Sometimes people give up talking to you because they cannot counter what you’re saying. But that still doesn’t make you right. And sometimes people give up because they’re convinced you’re not hearing them, or replying to their most important point. So they see you as hopeless on the issue. Or maybe just annoying.
Don’t flatter yourself merely because you got the last word. It doesn’t make you right or credible. Only facts, evidence, logic and objective truth can do that.
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