How to Go From Regret to Reconnection in 4 Simple Steps

Photo by alancleaver_2000 on Flickr

Have you ever wished you could 'un-say' something the minute it comes out of your mouth?

Or wished you could rewind an argument to that crucial moment - and respond differently this time?

With this simple technique you can can virtually turn back the clock - while simultaneously teaching your mind to do it differently in the future.

The technique is known by some as "post-hearsal" - and in our family, as a "Do-Over".

THE 4 STEPS OF A DO-OVER

1. Notice the Regret (compassionately)

As Kathryn Shulz says in her TED talk, regret has an important message for us (I won't give it away if you have not heard the talk). The point is to stop and feel the regret with self-compassion - like you would for a friend who temporarily messed up.

Then, take a breath and remind yourself that trust and connection are not built through "getting it right the first time" but through our willingness to keep trying.

2. Imagine What You'd Say Differently

In your mind, go back to the words (or actions) that you regret and make a guess about what would work better.

Now say the new words silently (or imagine the action) in your mind.
Example: Recently, my partner and I got into an argument after I said, gruffly, that I did not want to go to the gym with him (period). When Imagining What I'd Say Differently, I wondered if he might have been responding to my complaints about not getting enough exercise lately. So, I guessed that it would've worked better for me to: (a) express appreciation for the offer and (b) say kindly that I was going to pass on it because I did not feel comfortable in that new gym.
3. Request a Do-Over

Now, ask for a Do-Over, realizing it is an expression of both humility (i'm human and messed up) and care (i want to put the effort into doing it better). Since the Do-Over requires participation from the other, a request will probably work better than a demand.

Something like "Yikes. That did not go the way I wanted it to. Can I have a Do-Over please?"

4. Turn Back the Clock!

This is the fun part. Ask the other person to say the line (or do the action) to which you wish you responded differently. Then, PAUSE, BREATHE and DO IT (respond differently based on the guess you came up with earlier).

The other person then needs to give a real-time response to your new line (or action), as though it is happening from scratch, to which you respond live, and so on until you come to a natural stopping point. 

RESULTS

In our experience, the Do-Overs produce two fairly consistent results.

1. Increased Connection

The new interaction builds ON TOP of the old one, creating a (surprisingly) greater sense of harmony and connection, even after painful arguments.
In the case of the gym argument, during the Do-Over, my partner (who had his own regrets about his short fuse) was relieved to hear why I did not want to go to the gym and offered to lift some weights in the basement instead.
2. Improved Skills

Just as importantly, with repeated use, the technique seems to be increasing our capacity to respond differently to each other in specific situations.

I believe this is because it combines the powerful effects of strategies such as role-playing, mental rehearsal, and simulation, which have been shown to improve skills and performance in athletes, airline pilots, business managers, parents of kids with disabilities, counselors, midwives, nurses and medical students. 
Note: While we mostly use Do-Overs as a couple, the technique sometimes works well with our kids, who tend to make it playful by exaggerating the Do-Over (e.g., after pushing each other to get to the stairs first, their Do-Over was "After YOU madam." "No, no, after YOU, sir" - followed by a fit of giggles).
Hope you enjoyed this approach to turning back the clock.

Questions? Comments? Tips to share about how you go from Regret to Reconnection?
I'd love to hear from you. 

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Source: While used widely around the world, I personally learned this technique from Kit Miller, director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for NonViolence and guest instructor for BayNVC's Leadership Program.


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting, I have no problem with finding a different way of phrasing things as my guilty mind keeps replaying different scenarios..now the hard part is to get the other person to agree to do a do-over after being disrespectful to them they might as well never want to have anything to do with you..is there a way of calming my mind from replaying my faults (especially if i can't do it with the other person)the self soothing part doesn't really seem to work for me even after a certain time has past.
    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for writing in. I love to hear from my readers - and I believe you are asking two great questions.

      1. The first, as I understand it, is how do we get the other person to agree to a Do-Over?

      Surprisingly, in my experience, and in that of others who've written to me, people are pretty willing to give it a go when you ask with humility and care. The other day a colleague of mine tried it with her 12 yr old niece on the phone, after the previous conversation had not gone well, and reported that her niece was totally up for it and had fun with it. To her, it was cool that an adult was admitting she was wrong and wanting to try it again - rather than just saying "sorry."

      One idea when starting with this strategy is to practice on something small that did not go well (but was not a complete bomb). This may allow you (and other other person) to gain some trust in the technique and make way for bigger Do-Overs in the future.

      Another idea is to talk about the strategy ahead of time and agree to try it next time the chance occurs.

      2. The other question - as I understood it - has to do with shifting from Guilt or Shame into Regret.

      Regret has (for me) a softer, more forgiving quality that is sad but focused on wishing I had done it differently.

      Shame and Guilt (for me) is more likely to paralyze me or get me stuck in a loop of self-recriminations (what you described aptly as "replaying my faults").

      One way I have of getting past this loop is to practice (in my mind or on paper) my favorite self-connecting exercise (some call this self-empathy). You can read about it in my post "Speaking While Upset: Moving From Destructive to Constructive in 6 Simple Steps" (see link below).

      I'd love to hear back from you if any of this winds up being helpful so I can keep learning too.

      http://www.improvecommunication.net/2011/01/speaking-while-upset-moving-from.html

      Delete
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