Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Imagine the following conversation:

"This can't go on. Something has to be done about it."

"I agree. I'll see what I can do."

"This has gone on far too long."

"OK. I'll get right on it." (exasperation begins)

"It's always been like this and..."

"OK. OK. I said I'll deal with it." (anger kicks in)

"You never listen to me. No matter what I say, you always get angry."

Guess what happens next? An argument is well underway.

The dialogue above is imaginary. It never happened. I made it up. But numerous other, similar conversations, if that is what they can be called, regularly take place in our lives. What happens as tensions escalate, is what I call lastworditis, a pathological compulsion to carry on about something long after it is prudent to do so. Why do people do that?

If we analyze the above hypothetical exchange, I think you will agree that all that was necessary is the original comment and the response to it. One person expressed a perceived problem, even if not in the most neutral fashion, and the other person responded with a promise to do something about it. That was enough. The rest of the expressions from the first person were taunts. They added nothing to the conversation and were uttered for no other reason than to stir things up. When someone responds to a taunt with impatience or even anger, why is this a surprise to anyone?

Lastworditis appears to me to be a form of frustration transference. Someone is unhappy, is unhappy about being unhappy, then decides that someone else or even everyone else should be unhappy as well. What is that all about?

Consider the use of 'always' and 'never' in the last line of the conversation above. Telling someone that they never do anything positive and always do something negative is a surefire way to raise his or her blood pressure.

I'm a geezer. I admit it. One thing about being a geezer is that, by definition, I have been around a long time. I have seen it all. One would think that by now I would be used to every manner of irrational action, every form of insult, every ploy. But I'm not. I am still amazed that so many of us act in ways guaranteed to be counter-productive and hurtful. Are we all nuts?



  1. Men and women have different ways to deal with problems.

    Men want to tell you what the problem is, ask you to solve it and then move on.

    Women want to make you feel bad about the problem, then have a cup of tea.


    I've found that often that 'lastworditis' isn't about the problem, it's about the problemee wanting you to understand how he/she felt about it but not being up-front enough to just say "While I appreciate that you're prepared to fix the problem, I'm still feeling all this pent-up frustration and would like to get it off my chest so that you'll understand why this issue was so important to me"

  2. Sounds like you have 'been there, experienced that,' Christopher. Your take on this is perceptive as usual, and I agree, mostly. There are times, however, when I suspect that lastworditis is a symptom of a larger, more serious problem, and that in that case there is no easy 'fix.' Then it's time to fire/transfer/divorce/break up or run away to Tahiti,depending on with whom the problem lies and what the most effective solution might be.

    A variance on lastworditis is 'yeahbutitis.' I had an employee who after being told what to do invariable responded with "Yeah, but..." and then went on to enumerate, in excrutiating detail, every reason why he thought the task couldn't/shouldn't be done at all or done in the way it was suggested.

  3. I know the "yeahbut" types *chuckle*

    As a supervisor, I find the best way to deal with them is to put the onus on them to come up with a solution to present to me, rather than them coming to me with a problem and then sitting there shooting down my ideas.

    All my staff know that if they have a problem or difficulty, they are expected to take ownership of their concerns and come to me with their proposals for feedback and guidance, not come to me looking for me to do their thinking for them


  4. Yeah, I learned that lesson too, the hard way. I have long since delegated day-to-day operations of my companies to others while I make a fool of myself in diverse other ways, but I sure had a long and interesting education by trial and error.

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  6. Interesting.

    I think that lastworditis is used by those mostly exhausted by their current-on-going state of affair with a significant other, in which 'always' = insert everything I've ever accused you of here and add tonights annoyance to the list of character flaws that everything I've ever accused you of so obviously infers'.

    And, 'never' = 'shut up - you don't know what you are talking about because in the absence of something that would make me happy, different, challenged, motivated or interested.. all I get is nothing or the same thing I have been getting whenever you are doing what you 'always' do, therefore you may ascertain that in my world you 'never' measure up to anything worth listening to unless you are doing something that isn't the something you 'always' do.

    It's called "kicking a dead horse", except the parties involved in the kicking are tired and tuned out and resort to what equates to commercial jingles to awaken, stir and represent all that they'd mean if you listened and all that they want your subconscious to know when you don't, like you probably aren't.

  7. Give the girl a cigar! Penny, you are on the mark as usual. The problem is that instead of perpetuating the same old nonsense over and over again, someone or preferably both parties involved should attempt to break the cycle. That's easier said than done, though.

  8. I have very little patience with people who speak in absolutes or who resort to hyperbole when expressing themselves.

    Credibility comes from being factual and honest. In my opinion, if you choose not to be factual and honest with me in expressing your feelings, then I feel no obligation to take you seriously.

    I accord everyone an initial degree of respect and credibility when I first meet them. Whether that respect & credibility waxes or wanes is wholly dependant upon how they conduct themselves with me.

    Unfortunately, I have discovered that many people believe that the respect and credibility they receive should not be connected to their behavior.

    There's a quote from Malcolm X that I live by:

    "I belive in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't wish to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street."