28 Feb Tired Of Nagging The People You Love?
Let’s play a game. Choose a behaviour that you can repeat numerous times every single day. Make sure it’s a behaviour that brings out the worst in you, really annoys and exhausts you, never feels good, and leaves you feeling bitter, resentful, and angry towards the people you love. Then repeat this behaviour every day for weeks, months, years, and decades.
Not so keen?
I’ve heard from a number of clients in my office lately who aren’t so keen on this idea either.
But they’re doing it anyway, stuck in the repetitive and completely soul destroying habit of “nagging”.
They confess to feeling miserable about it and desperate to stop doing it.
But they don’t stop.
They just keep hoping that eventually their partners and children will magically start pulling their weight. They tell themselves that then, and only then, the nagging can stop.
The nagger (and yes, she’s often, but not always, a woman) feels exhausted, frustrated, resentful, and usually, very angry.
She’s sick of trying to hold everything together, and sick of barking orders at partners or kids who don’t (or won’t) see what needs doing and when.
She’s tired of her own nagging voice but she’s scared that if she stops nagging then things will just stop getting done.
And she can’t afford for things to just stop getting done, so she battles on.
What’s that they say about the definition of insanity? Isn’t it doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
It’s been fun helping these naggers discover what healthy communication sounds like, and to empower them to stop the nagging and instead, create healthier relationships that allow them to feel empowered, loving, and calm.
If you’ve become a nagger, I’m here to convince you that there is another way. Here’s how you can start:
1. Make sure you mean what you say.
Naggers are often so frustrated and angry that they nag about all sorts of things, the big and the small. This distracts others from what’s actually important, and encourages them to switch off.
Learn to identify what’s really important to you, and what’s not.
Let the small stuff go, by either doing it yourself, without resentment, or when possible, letting it go undone. What’s left over is the stuff that you really care about.
2. Say it like you mean it.
If you really care about something, make sure you say it with the credibility it deserves.
A harried mother yelling “Come to the kitchen right now and pack your lunch boxes” in a distracted voice, from another room, is far less credible than a mother who delivers the exact same words stand face to face, making eye contact, using a firm, calm, “I really mean what I say” voice.
3. Shift out of complaint and into request.
Naggers whinge, complain, bully, or ask for stuff in a passive aggressive or wishy washy way. Healthy communicators don’t.
Shift out of complaint mode , and learn to make assertive requests instead.
“You never remember to put the bin out” is a complaint, and not likely to inspire anyone to comply.
“I’d like you to help me by putting the bin out tonight please” is a request, and, if said with respectful firmness, it’s far more likely to achieve the positive result you’re yearning for.
4. Don’t get hijacked by your own inner child.
Who? Your own inner child, that part inside you who likes to take over when you feel unsupported, frustrated, angry, and resentful… and who believes she’s entitled to behave accordingly.
She’s going to want to pout, yell, stamp her feet, or behave in some other childish, destructive way. You’ll need to learn to manage her well, because if you don’t, she’s going to inflame things rather than help you get your partner or kids collaborating.
You’ll need to keep your inner child in check and instead, enlist your Adult self. Yep, you know her… the one who can be sad or mad or downright infuriated… but still stay rational and calm under pressure. You can’t do this without her.
5. Seek confirmation that you’ve been heard. And understood.
Seen those TV shows where the emergency crew talk on their CB radios and say “Roger that!” to each other, to indicate that a message has been successfully transmitted and received?
Effective communication is a two way street. Asking for something doesn’t mean your partner or kids necessarily hear or understand what you’ve said. If you’ve been prone to nagging in the past, they’ve probably learned to tune out too.
Always ask for clear acknowledgment, and to avoid all doubt, even ask the recipient to feed back to you what they’ve heard, whenever you make a request.
6. Make your request… then outline potential consequences of it being ignored.
You nag because you’re sick of asking for something only to find it doesn’t get done. So you ask again and again, feeling increasing increments of irritation, resentment, and fury.
Nip this in the bud by making your request, then outlining, respectfully but firmly, the potential consequences which may follow if your request is ignored.
This isn’t about making threats, and it isn’t done with a spirit of vindictiveness. It’s about holding others accountable for their own decisions, and learning to stop accomodating them by asking (nagging) again, if they choose to ignore your requests.
“I’d like you to pack your lunch box so you’ve got enough to eat at school today. If you don’t, I’m thinking you might get hungry.”
“I’d like you to help me by doing XYZ this morning. If you can’t get that done this morning, I’ll need to do it this afternoon, so I won’t have time to drive you to the game.”
7. Be patient and understand that changing communication habits takes time.
You can change the way you communicate pretty quickly, but your kids and partner will need to time to adjust to the “new you”. The key is to be consistently respectful and loving, but unashamedly firm, too.
When your best intentions fail, be patient. You can create relationships that don’t require you to be a nagger.
What I hope for you is that you learn how to communicate in a way that brings out the best in you and allows you to feel good about yourself and the people you love. After all, you’ll be repeating this behaviour every day for weeks, months, years, and decades, so you might as well get it right.
Pamela Pannifex is a psychotherapist, marriage therapist, naturopath and founder of Sunshine Holistic Counselling on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. For the past 25 years she has been helping people create personal wellbeing and relationships that thrive. Contact Pamela here.