Communication 11: Nag, Nag, Nag!!!

Date: 12/5/2005

If there were no side-effects, it would not be so objectionable. Unfortunately, however, nagging can sour relationships and ruin the atmosphere of a home, office, or classroom.  Even worse,  it can backfire and cause the person to deliberately not do what you are asking!  

Those of us who do nag usually have a belief like "it is the only way to get things done." 

Well...Is that really so?

Lets discuss some alternatives to nagging... 

The first thing to consider is based on a Rashi in Chumash (Shemot chapter 19, verse 24). Tell them your request.  Then, later on, give them one reminder.  In other words, you tell them your request twice.

Timing is of the essence! The first time you mention your request, do so at an opportune time-- Not too far before the event when they could forget about it and not too close to the event when there is a risk they won't be able to finish in time.  Furthermore,  pay attention to their emotional state.  They may not be receptive to what you are asking if they are in a negative emotional state (such as annoyed or frustrated).  Either wait until they are in a more positive emotional state---or help them "clear" their negative emotional state.  

Lets take an exmaple...If you need to ask  someone to do a task by the end of the week.  At the beginning of the week tell them "I need this done by Friday,  please."  .

Since the "opportune time" will vary from person to person and from task to task, consider carefully when you feel this might be. Is it worth the few moments of thought planning ahead to avoid the adverse side effects of nagging?  Absolutely!

The second time you mention your request is a reminder just before the task needs to be done. (Make sure you give them enough time to complete it).

In the example we just mentioned, perhaps on Thursday morning tell them  "I just wanted to remind you that we need that task done by tomorrow."

The second thing to consider is speaking with a suitable voice tone. Naggers often speak with an annoyed, impatient, or sarcastic voice tone. This should be changed in most situations. There are other voice tones---and wordings which match those voice tones--- which will be much more effective.

For example:

...a matter-of-fact manner: "I need to ask you to please straighten up in here".

...or a loving manner: " Yossi, my dear boy / Rachel, sweetheart, could I ask you to..." 

...or use humor:  Yossi/Rachel, you are cordially invited to please .....

Sometimes  asking them is more effective than telling them---and sometimes vice versa.  Different strokes for different folks,  as they say.   And  even with the same people,  what will be effective in one situaion will not be effective in another one.   Experiment and see what works for you. 

The third consideration is changing your belief. Instead of a belief like "nagging is the only way to get things done" mentioned above, develop a nurturing belief. "I can find a good way to remind without nagging." (see the article on "self-confidence" on how to change beliefs).  This will support the change you are making in how you communicate.

Give it a try! Before you nag you probably feel annoyed either that the task is not done or in anticipation that it won't be done. This annoyed feeling is an "anchor" (stimulus) to nag. One way you can break the habit is to actively practice the method mentioned above 2 or 3 times a day, every day. Plan ahead which words and which voice tone you want to use. Keep it up until you see that you are reminding instead of nagging.