A little known thing about arguments is that they are actually quite healthy. That is, if they are done respectfully. Arguments are a sign that people are as striving to understand and connect with each other. That they want to be heard and that there is something worth fighting for…something of value.
However, we have all been in the argument that has gone on too long. It seems that it’s just like all those other arguments that we’ve had before. We have cycled through our point of view so many times that it’s obvious the communication breakdown has more to do with personality differences than just perspective changes. We try exhaustedly, frustratedly, to get the other person to understand and they keep trying for the same. We’ve reached the time where we start using hurtful and button-punching language. We’re ready for it to be done. Sometimes, we hit a point where we don’t even know what we’re fighting about anymore but we really want to win.
But what would be the best outcome here? If we actually won, the other side has to lose. And you know: in a relationship, if somebody wins everybody loses. The best outcome might not be to get the other person to cave. Enter: the Do-Over.
The Do-Over’s function is that of a reset. If you ever wished that you could just get back to your day rather than this fight, it’s probably a good time for a Do-Over. Do-Overs are an acknowledgement of the fact that a relationship can still be in tact even if an argument does not have a resolution. They are used to help the relationship maintain it’s value and not necessarily to the detriment of the members in the relationship. Do-Overs can be done with partners, children, family, friends, even co-workers. Do-Overs have some stout rules but once applied, everyone gets the benefit of having the opportunity to move out of the argument space and into…well whatever else you wanted to do that day.
How To Do-Over:
1) Every one MUST agree that they want to have a Do-Over. Just because it is offered, does not mean that it is compulsory. A person may still feel that they need to be heard and understood, or that they have more to say and they want feedback before they can agree to a Do-Over.
2) Once the Do-Over has been agreed upon, there may be a final word for each person. Essentially, this is the last word but there is no arguing with someone’s final word. They say it and that’s it. Others can acknowledge that they heard it or let it be. The final word can also be an apology for hurtful things said during the argument or for starting the argument.
3) Once the Do-Over final word is completed, there is generally a physical acknowledgement that the reset is occurring. A 20-second hug is a great technique to use to signal to the body that the argument is over and to restore the previous connection in the relationship. However, a less intimate way to reset can be to let everyone take a few deep cleansing breaths or go outside for some fresh air and perspective.
4) The last step for the Do-Over is the most vital and is actually a rule for fair-fighting. Now, the content of the fight is old business and may not be brought back up. The reset has been established and everyone has faithfully agreed that they would like to participate in the Do-Over, so nothing from the previous disagreement can be used to cycle back into trying to win or change the other side. Usually, if someone does this, it is a sign that they weren’t ready for the Do-Over or that they need to forgive themselves for making the mistake, apologize, and move on.
In all relationships, especially with children, there are power struggles. In this case, both my partner and I were trying to argue with our threenager.
As was her wont, she frequently liked to cause a fight of a Sunday morning. Apparently, the stress of having a relaxing brunch with jazz playing in the background at our sun-filled kitchen table was just too much. It was like she saw these two grown people lazily preparing the meal and said to herself, “what would take this to the next level? I know: a squealing fit about my sneezing and hatred of waiting.”
Now, most parents know this is par for the course and that doesn’t change much of their trajectory when it comes to hashbrowns and waffles. They want that noise to stop. They want to eat and enjoy the peace of the morning. So they try to cajole, to ignore, and then to argue with their small wizard (a person who can magically transform things). In this case, I think some fantastic points were made about the availability of toys and coloring supplies. Then, still sleepy parents might have gotten a little beligerant and melodramatic about the ENTIRE day being ruined and so on. Voices may be raised on both sides, tears for sure at a few points, brunch is dangerously close to burning, and the dog is hiding in the living room. Someone, anyone, says, “wait, can we just have a Do-Over?”
Everyone stops. Yes, yes we can. In this case, mommy apologises first for lying and saying the whole day was ruined. It wasn’t true and it’s not fair to put the whole day under one argument. Next, threenager says she is sorry she screamed and got mad but she thinks she needs a cookie or toast next time while she waits. Daddy says, that’s fine but in this house we ask for what we want and don’t treat others like servants. We then, took a deep breath, let it out, and came together for a group hug. And resumed brunch as previously scheduled.
2 hours later:
Threenager is screaming about breaking her crayon and the general malaise of being oppressed by the peaceful Sunday afternoon. Mommy brings up the fact that the threenager just really hates Sundays and relaxation and now must immediately apologize because she is a counselor and she recognizes old business when she hears it coming out of her mouth. So she does and they hug it out. And maybe someday, like, say when she is 6 the threenager grows out of the Sunday Drama and instead helps set the table and put out the food and we have Do-Overs because mommy is going through menopause and is a forty-threenager.
Kristen Carlosh is a licensed professional counselor working in private practice, as well as a former school counselor, female Gordon Ramsey, and Best Mom Ever. She is currently writing her dissertation for her doctoral degree in Counselor Education. She writes blogs because they are infinitely more fun, and sharing is caring. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.