Saving an argument with the power of The Do-Over

Wish you had a CTRL Z option on some of your less-than-awesome snipes at your loved one? Dorothy Black suggests trying a do-over.

‘I’m sorry. Do we need a do-over on that?’ His eyebrow is raised and his tone, while level, a little testy.

Mr T and I have reached a pause moment, that little breath of space just after you or lover have made a, shall we say, ‘unconstructive’ (read: snappy, irritable, provoking, mean) comment.

In this pause moment – and there is always one if you pay attention – is an opportunity for a real turning point in your argument, day, and even relationship. It’s the moment where you choose how to respond to a barb.

Seeing the pause moment and making use of it can take some practise, but it’s there.

Anyway. One of the ways we’ve found of making use of this pause moment is the ‘do-over’.

I can’t claim credit for it since Mr T contributed this set of communication skills to our relationship, but it’s a goodie so I want to share it with you.

A do-over is when you take the shitty moment and re-do it to be less shitty. For example:

Me: ‘Are you going to wear that again?’
He: *blink*
Me: ‘Seriously, like, you have five other pairs of pants.’
He: ‘Do I look bad?’
Me: ‘No. Just, the same … as … you know …’
He (hurt): ‘The same as what?’
Me: *blink*

The pause moment. It’s at this point that his proud self-preservation kicks in, realises I’m making a mean comment about his clothes and, rather than throwing me a sarcy comment back, I get a: ‘I’m sorry. Do we need a do-over on that?’

And so…

Me: ‘You’re wearing that? Nice pants!’
He: ‘I know.’
Me: ‘I reali– Nope. Never mind. Nice pants!’
*grin*

We use the do-over often and follow it up, usually, with an explanation of where the meanness came from (especially if it felt provoked by something else) and an apology. Mostly it’s fun and funny, and I’m okay with that.

I’m a firm supporter of unpicking the complexities of conflict areas in relationships with self and others to arrive at a deeper understanding of each other et cetera et cetera, but sometimes a little humour and a do-over is all that’s needed to disarm a throwaway comment made on the back of a bad day.

And maybe there’s a lesson that pause moments and do-overs can teach us about healthy relationships: there is always the opportunity to examine the hurts experienced and the hurts inflicted – and change it.

The power of any experience to add value to our lives requires our capacity to change – to move from one perspective to another; to value the single thread of a moment, but understand it as part of the bigger tapestry that is your life.

Each pause moment provides the opportunity to change; each do-over the experience of changing. It’s a small exercise, but a valuable one.

This column was first published in a weirdly edited version on W24.co.za…