Having the Last Word

By Rev. Amari Magdalena

Something I’ve observed lately on social media, got me thinking.  I’m sure we’ve all done this in days when having the last word seemed to be about our opinion being most correct in conversations.  I find myself pondering and looking through the lens of my own past.  Sure enough, there was a time when I wanted to have the last word.  Perhaps because I wanted to win; perhaps I thought my view was more correct.  In hind sight, it is challenging to remember the reason. I simply acknowledge and wish to be aware of not perpetrating that tendency.

We are living in very divisive times. I doubt anyone will argue with that.  True communication and building bridges of understanding are often elusive.  I’ve seen that in my own FB posts.  Even when I’ve said that I honor someone’s truth and wish for them to honor mine, someone will have to have the last word in disagreement.  Perhaps it is softly stated; perhaps not. With it brings an argument of sorts and validation goes begging.

Yet it got me thinking about this thing of winning.  I vaguely remember a concept of New Games which passed through in the late seventies as a non-competitive way for everyone to win.  There was discussion about the importance of win/win vs. win/lose experiences. The athletic application found its way into popular psychology and communication I’m OK/Your OK strategies. As all trends do in time pass, New Games faded into the nothingness from which the concept arose.

In the recesses of my mind, I seem to recall some later discussions about the concept that not everyone can win and we need to embrace disappointment and loss. The pendulum was swinging wildly while many people pondered what was the best way to handle difference of opinion and beliefs. Even more theories were extolled. Enter it’s all about me and entitlement and poof, integration of concepts and ideas on communication flew.  In some corners babbling was evidenced.

This brings me to the present moment in time and the question of what to do about this need to have the last word.  Perhaps we might offer more epilogues in our exchanges; leaving an openness to new possibilities, a potential for a series etc.  Maybe we just need to learn more about validation.  Ultimately, we need to learn to be better listeners without agendas, I feel.

One indigenous tradition that might be of great value would be the Talking Stick.  Whether it is to be a physical stick passed in a group or perhaps an emoji to use in our discussions it might help us surrender the need to win at a communication.  The answering feather emoji could be passed on when the talking stick recipient was ready for an exchange.  A further emoji might be developed to see a circle that has ended on a discussion and that those that wanted to contribute did from the “I” own my feelings and acknowledge that you, and me and we, do not always have to agree to have a genuine exchange of ideas.

Finally, we might have a Teepee emoji to invite all participants in the discussion to come up with ideas and solutions to the original sharing of what was a seemingly unattainable consensus.  We could beta test the concept and then present it to our town halls, Sunday salons, social and political groups or in any situation where division is causing undue anger and angst.

The essential point is that if we are to survive as a people on the planet, we do need new ways of talking and listening to one another, without an agenda that leaves one side potentially feeling less or put off.  We need to learn to listen without the need to immediately respond. Surrendering the interruption habit would be another consideration (we ADD folks are so gifted at that 😊).  And we need more quiet contemplation with our higher intelligence seeking to provide us with insight into how to mend the divisions and start constructing those bridges.

In the beginning our bridges may be made of fragile straw.  Hopefully in the future, we’ll find more permanent materials for them. Build we must.

There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words, and still not understand you. And there are others who will understand — without you even speaking a word.” ― Yasmin Mogahed