How Not To Nag

April 5, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

Living with other people can be frustrating for many reasons, especially if you feel like you aren’t being respected by your housemates or family members. Numerous times I’ve heard mothers complain that their children don’t do chores when asked and they have to nag their kids incessantly to get them to do anything. I’ve also heard similar complaints directed toward spouses and roommates.

Nag, nag, nag.

As easy as it is to nag someone (and, wow, is it easy!), it’s not a very nice or effective act. First and foremost, nagging is a sign of disrespect, so it’s usually met with disrespect in return. Nagging says: I don’t trust you. I don’t believe in you. I don’t think you’re capable.

In addition to being disrespectful, nagging is one of the least effective ways to motivate someone to take on a task. Nagging is only good at motivating someone to not do something.

How do you stop nagging? That’s a good question. If you’ve been in the habit of nagging for months or years, instantly changing your behavior is going to be difficult. In the end, though, the change is worth it.

  1. Have a conversation. Turn off the music, television, and computer and calmly talk about the situation. Start by explaining why you want help in the house and the benefits of your living arrangements looking and operating a specific way. Be honest, but don’t complain about the other person’s past behavior. Don’t blame, and don’t belittle. Focus on the future and how you envision life under the same roof.
  2. Listen. The other person will have an opinion on the future you have described, and it might not perfectly align with your vision. Really listen to what the person has to say, because you may be able to find some common ground that both of you can live with.
  3. Discuss consequences. If X doesn’t happen, what will the consequence be? Does the consequence appropriately match the undone chore? If your daughter leaves her shoes in the middle of the living room floor, is it fair for you to donate those shoes to charity? Maybe not, since you’re the one who likely bought the shoes and would have to buy her a new pair. So, what is the right response? What consequence would motivate her to not leave her shoes in the middle of the floor?
  4. Playing fairly. Does everyone carry an equal amount of work or the appropriate amount of work for his/her schedule? Is someone carrying more responsibilities than she should? If Sally can’t leave her shoes in the middle of the living room floor, than neither should Billy or you be able to.
  5. Each person should write down what is expected of him/her daily, weekly, and monthly and consequences if chores aren’t completed. There can’t be any misunderstanding of expectations when a person writes out his responsibilities and the consequences of his undone actions.
  6. Start new system and apply consequences when necessary. Don’t nag or remind someone to do a chore, simply apply consequences if something doesn’t get done. Carry out the exact consequence as was decided upon during the conversation — no exceptions.
  7. In a month, sit down and have a second conversation to review the progress made. Change responsibilities or consequences as necessary. Be sure to apply praise where praise is due.

If sitting down and talking about expectations feels like an impossible task, consider going to a family therapist to have a professional help you through the process. Even if you’re just roommates, you’re still living like a family, and a therapist should be able to help.