(photo credit: MCT)
Why do people nag? They nag because they don’t feel that they were
Why do they feel they are not heard? Because they ask that
something be done and it isn’t. Their request has been ignored. So they repeat
Why isn’t it done? Often because the “naggee” doesn’t want to
do what is being asked and tunes out the “nagger.”
Why do they tune out
the nagger? Because they find him or her controlling and demanding and the
nagging gets on their nerves.
Why do they find it controlling? Because
the naggee wants to do something when they want to (if they want to do it at
all) and not necessarily when the nagger wants it done.
Well if it has to
be done anyway, why not just do it? Just do it? Yup – and then no one has to
Sounds like an easy solution, and in some families this actually
In others, though, more help is needed in order to prevent
WOMEN WIN hands-down in the nagging department. We tend to
mostly get blamed for nagging our spouses and our kids. In part, this is because
women have a tremendous responsibility to keep the family system and home
environment in balance. Even when tasks are shared, it is frequently the woman
who is the CEO and overall manager – often not by choice. As such, the woman
usually has an ongoing list (which may be posted on the fridge or just in her
head) and she knows that crossing things off, which she’d really like to do,
involves other people on whom she depends. Sadly, the arguments which often
follow have little to do with what has to be done but focus more on how her
family members perceive they are being asked to do it.
Nagging is not
just about the words but also the tone of voice, body language and perceived
attitude of the nagger. It can involve a vicious cycle of repetition: a request
being repeatedly unfulfilled or ignored. This in turn causes more nagging, which
then may lead to more withholding until both people feel increasingly
Observing the personality characteristics of the nagger, we may
see a well-organized, highly disciplined, somewhat anxious, obsessive and
controlling individual. Looking at the naggee, we often see a more laid-back,
relaxed person who often procrastinates, at times out of laziness, or perhaps
someone who is simply overwhelmed. Frequently the naggee is less invested in
carrying out the request than the nagger. Hence the tug-of-war. As nagging
continues, the nagger may feel unloved and uncared for and the naggee may feel
bossed around and constantly picked on. Together these make for difficulties
within the relationship, and whether they are parent and child or husband and
wife, they often end up in my office looking and feeling miserable.
TO nudge or nag, but here is a simplified list of some things that can help:
Decide that you’d like to work together to break the cycle of nagging. It is
important to acknowledge that neither you nor the other person feel good about
the relationship at the moment and would like to change the pattern that has
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
When making a
request: Be clear. Have the recipient of the request repeat back what was asked
to ensure that the requester was both heard and understood. This prevents
miscues in communication. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel” or “I would
like,” to avoid blame; leave out words such as “always” and “never” and be
positive and empathetic.
Keep time-bound requests reasonable. Not
everything must be done immediately. Perhaps it really is okay to fix the door
by the end of the day or the end of the week. Prioritize and sort out emergent
from urgent. Does the room really need to be cleaned now or will Friday
afternoon be okay? Ask the other person when they think they could realistically
complete a task.
Work together to try and understand the deeper meaning
of the request and the reason it is not being immediately fulfilled. Explain why
you are making the request and why is it important to you. Try and understand
the other person’s perspective as well. (They may not be nearly as invested in
having the room clean or may have a different agenda.) What response does
nagging or not complying with a request trigger in you and why? Work on finding
solutions together. If you both feel overwhelmed, how can you work together,
each have your needs met and feel that you both benefit? Think outside the box
to find acceptable alternative solutions to the ones proposed. Perhaps, for
example, you need to hire someone to assist with the chores.
you like from your partner or find helpful and how can you achieve it? Make a
plan for carrying out the requested action and then follow up and evaluate how
it worked. Once you both agree to the plan, there should be no reason for the
request to be repeated.
If you have agreed to do a task, it is your
responsibility to follow through without reminders. If you need a reminder, use
your cell phone or a to-do list, not your partner or parent.
be a symptom of a more serious underlying problem within the
If, for instance, there are issues of trust, depression,
anxiety or obsessive behavior, you may benefit from the outside intervention of
a trained professional. This person can evaluate dysfunctional patterns, give
constructive assistance and help enable you to implement a plan for
success.Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in
private practice in Ra’anana. Send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or
visit her website at www.drbatyaludman.com. Her book,
Journey. Exploring Relationships – Resolving Conflicts, was recently
published by Devora Publishers.
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