The Last Word

In high school I was on the debate team and learned to spar with words. The winner had the most persuasive stance, the last word, and left the other team without retort. But outside this arena in our human interactions, there is a different set of rules. What is more important—to prove oneself right, or to preserve another’s dignity and worth? The latter seems obvious. Opinions can be voiced with softening prefaces such as these: “That’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t viewed that perspective before.” “Another way of looking at that issue is…” “ Here’s something else that makes sense to me.” “Yes, I would add to your comment that…” And there’s always this standby: “In my opinion…” With sensitivity, I can ask questions to evoke deeper thought, then pull back and listen without interrupting. Really listen with the intent to understand. Be willing to sacrifice victory at having the last word in order to preserve another’s credibility. It is better to be understated than overstated. A few well-chosen, kindly-spoken words can be more influential than verbal bulldozing to prove oneself right at any cost. These truths can fortify all our relationships—in the workplace, at home with our children, and in our marriages.

One thought on “The Last Word

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *