Having the last word for some people means winning the argument. Whilst this clearly isn’t always true, it is a frustrating trait that applies to more than just Wikipedia!

It is worth remembering that the person who wins the debate is not necessarily the person who shouts the loudest, or gets in the last word.

Often a person with this personality is likely to be an egomaniac or bordering on being one. An egomaniac can be defined as a person who is obsessively self-centred or egotistical.

Why do egomaniacs feel the need to have the last word?

There are many reasons people behave as they do. Trying to understand the psyche behind aggressive behaviours can help to plan your course of action if you regularly deal with people who insist on always having the last word.

Insecurity:

Somebody who lacks confidence or self-esteem may try to assert themselves in other ways, by expressing himself or herself in a forceful way. This is a familiar scenario in bullying, where often the aggressor is a victim in another way.

Should this be the possible reason for their insistence on having the last word, trying to discuss your differences with sensitivity might help to reach a peaceful outcome. They probably need to be heard more strongly than they need to feel validated.

Arrogance:

A person with extreme arrogance may genuinely not be able to accept that they might be incorrect, or that another person’s opinion is equally as valid as their own. This is an unfortunate trait to have, and it may be that an extremely arrogant person simply isn’t worth arguing within any circumstance.

Egocentricity:

Some people simply need to be the centre of attention, and will argue black is white in order to keep the spotlight. This can occur for lots of reasons; they might feel ignored in their home life, or feel impotent in other areas of their social or professional relationships.

If a person is unreasonable simply for attention, it isn’t wise to stroke their ego. You will only find yourself drawn into their appeals for attention, and may be supporting their egocentricity by doing so.

Power:

Having the last word can be perceived as powerful, often by people who lack assertiveness in other areas of their lives. This is a difficult scenario to deal with, as you are the unwitting recipient of their onslaught that is enforcing their own feelings of control and power.

Try not to be drawn into a debate with this person; they will do their utmost to drive you down for their own self-esteem.

Anger:

Refusal to debate calmly can be a reaction to feelings of anger, and shouting down an opponent is a way to express their feelings. In this situation, it may be best to revisit the discussion when the other person has had time to calm down. Otherwise, debating with an angry opponent could quickly turn into a volatile situation.

Dominance:

As with power, a person who feels the innate need to dominate others or to establish their seniority may do so by insisting they have the final word in any conversation. A scenario most likely to exist in the workplace, people can try to demonstrate their dominance over peers or colleagues by forcing them to concede an argument.

In this situation, you need to reinforce your own self-esteem, and perhaps have a third party step in. Don’t be crushed by another person’s drive to control your actions; make sure your voice is heard even when you are speaking quietly.

How should you deal with an egomaniac, and is there any way to have a productive debate?

When you are having a discussion with somebody who refuses to listen, it is wise to choose not to continue the conversation. This might sound counterproductive, but channelling energy and time into a scenario that is never going to have a mutually agreeable outcome is not a worthwhile investment.

If an opponent makes the decision to step away from the debate, this can entirely diffuse the situation. You are not obliged to continue a dialogue that makes you feel uncomfortable. Nor is it your sole responsibility to change the mind of a person who refuses to listen to reason.

Take a step back. There is a better chance that your arguments will mature over time and that any valid points you have made will remain in their thought process and perhaps inform behaviour in time.

Keep your own poise

Feeling frustrated is understandable. If you are trying to reach an agreement in a fruitless discussion, you might feel embattled and try ever more strenuously to communicate your perspective.

If a debate is continuing to escalate, at some point this needs to end before it turns into a heated exchange which is a negative experience for all involved.

In order to de-escalate a tense situation, you might do well to agree to disagree. You don’t ever have to agree with something which you feel is wrong or incorrect, but you can express your acceptance of another person’s point of view without having to concede that you are not right.

Silence speaks volumes

Don’t feel drawn or forced into an impossible discussion. If you know that you are dealing with an egomaniac that has no intention of considering another perspective, you can decide not to engage in the conversation.

Being the bigger person isn’t always the easiest course of action, but may save your headspace from becoming bogged down with an argument that you were never going to win.

Particularly in contentious circumstances (politics springs straight to mind!) it might be wiser to say nothing at all and keep your peace.

References:

  1. Psychology Today
  2. Your Tango
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