Nagging – that habit we can all fall into – is ineffective and puts a strain on your relationships. Instead, try some of these different ways to get what you want. Some are so easy you can start doing them immediately and enjoy the positive changes they encourage. Others you can spend a little more time with as you work your way up to the more advanced strategies.
Simple Alternatives to Nagging
1. Do the math. If you still need to convince yourself that nagging fails to get results, try counting how many times you say the same thing. The tenth time is likely to turn out the same as the first nine attempts. You have everything to gain by trying a new approach, and you can avoid some of the negative backlash from the individual you are nagging!
2. Focus on the positive. Keep your eye on the big picture. When you think about how your family, friends and colleagues enrich your life, it’s easier to relax and cut them a little slack on the less pleasant details of your interactions.
3. Do it yourself. It may be faster and more satisfying to complete a task yourself rather than waiting for someone else to do it. It also relieves you of the necessity of nagging to get the task completed. Learn how to replace the air filter in your car. Sweep the stairs or wash the dishes even when your spouse was going to do those jobs this week.
4. Become more flexible. Let others know that you appreciate their willingness to help out even if (and especially if) their methods are different from your own. Smoothing out the bedspread makes the room look tidier even if you have to give up on those perfect “hospital” corners.
5. Let others experience the consequences of their actions. Maybe your kids surprise you with a science fair project that they HAVE to have your help with and that’s due the next morning on the same evening when you usually go grocery shopping. Eating tuna fish sandwiches for a week may help them understand the importance of giving you adequate notice.
6. Engage outside help. Consider paying professionals for chores that cause ongoing conflicts. A weekly housecleaning service may be worth the investment if it brings more peace to your home. Find another parent at your kid’s school who is willing to take turns driving them to soccer practice, so you’re not always the one feeling pressured to take care of it.
7. Streamline your workload. Chronic irritability is often a sign that you’re trying to do too much. Figure out which responsibilities are priorities and which you can put aside.
8. Embrace technology. Brief text messages and automated calendar reminders deliver the same information with less risk of putting people on the defensive. Remind your partner that you have a dinner party tonight without saying a word.
9. Take a time out. Deal with sensitive subjects when you’re feeling calm and collected. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a walk, have a favorite hot beverage, or listen to soothing music until you settle down.
More Advanced Alternatives to Nagging
1. Address the root issues. Probe more deeply to see if nagging is a symptom of deeper issues in your relationships. Marital counseling or parenting classes may help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.
2. Ask for what you want directly. Work up the courage to state what you need clearly and tactfully. One skillful message beats years of beating around the bush.
3. Listen well. Practice attentive listening. Concentrate on what the other person is saying and confirm that you understand by repeating what you believe you’ve heard. It’s easier to cooperate with each other when we feel validated and cared for, and it’s easier to solve a challenge when you are both working toward the same result.
4. Nurture your self esteem. Some studies suggest that women are more prone to nagging because they feel like they have less power. Encourage yourself with positive self talk and pursue meaningful goals. Feeling strong and secure makes you less vulnerable to finding faults in others, and can help you speak up for yourself more often.
If you’re tired of repeating the same requests without getting the results you desire, it’s time to try some alternatives to nagging. Change your expectations and improve your communication skills. You may wind up with a happier family life and a cleaner house.