Want Success? Bag the Nagging!

Expert advice for success in communicating with your spouse

by - Posted on May 1, 2007

Did you take out the trash yet? Put down the toilet seat! Why can't you pick up after yourself? Sound familiar? You say something for the umpteenth time, your mate rolls his eyes. Nothing gets done, and you both wind up irritated. Time to bag nagging, don't you think? Obviously it's not working. Here are five strategies that will:

1. Be clear.
"Say what you want, not what you don't want," says Susan Campbell, Ph.D., relationship coach and author of Saying What's Real. A person is more likely to listen to a specific, respectful request than a complaint. Think of it as teaching your spouse something about yourself. Begin statements with "I" instead of "You," which can come across as accusatory. Wouldn't you respond better to "I'd like to be able to finish my thought" than "You constantly interrupt me"?

2. Be calm.
Throw out the threats; eliminate ultimatums. "Say what you want in a heartfelt, self-revealing way," Campbell advises. Explain why something upsets you, then pay attention to how your mate responds. There's no right or wrong in these situations, only preferences. Try saying, "Here's what I'd like...how does that work for you?"

3. Be honest.
You've sweetly stated your request three times and still no dice? Okay, are you communicating or controlling? Is it more important for you to win than to find a solution both of you can live with? If your attitude doesn't need adjusting, then proceed: "I've asked you to do this a few times. Is there something going on that I should know about?"

4. Be positive.
Make sure to let your mate know what makes you happy. When he does something you like, tell him how much you appreciate it. Practice positive reinforcement, and eventually you'll see the behavior you want being repeated—without you even asking.

5. Be patient.
It's hard to always remember to use the hamper, charge the cell phones, let the dog out. Changing habits takes time, but the results are worth it. Nix nagging, and find out for yourself!

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