Are you in a relationship where you feel you are constantly nagged? Does your spouse repeat themselves over and over and over until you’d rather go deaf than listen to the same thing AGAIN? Or do you find that your spouse asks you to do something then asks again before you’ve even had a chance to process the first request? If you find yourself in any of these situations, there are a few small changes that could end the constant nagging forever.

Make the other person feel heard

Often when a person is repeating themselves, whether they are rephrasing or repeating verbatim, it is because they are not feeling heard or understood. What can feel like an attempt to persuade, is often an attempt to be understood. Once the person feels that you truly comprehend what they are trying to communicate, your agreement is no longer required.  Unfortunately we often think that we communicate an understanding, when the message we are sending is simply a desire to end the conversation. A frustrated, “I get it,” accompanied by a literal wave off, feels like a dismissal, not a true understanding. 

I have often heard from clients that they just want the talking to stop. The best way to accomplish that goal is not through direct request. A request like that will likely result in, not only additional conversation, but a change in the tone of the conversation (and not in a good way). To get what you want, you must provide the other person what they need. A calmly delivered statement that reiterates what the person is trying to communicate, denotes that you have heard the person, processed the information, and have a clear understanding of the intended message. Once this has been accomplished, the talking will in fact cease.

Set clear expectations

When a person makes a request of someone, they do so with certain expectations. Unfortunately, and unfairly, these expectations are often uncommunicated. So a simple “Can you take the trash out?” carries the implied message of “I mean right now” or “As soon as possible.” Now, the responsibility to communicate these expectations lies with the person making the request. However, the burden lies with the doer. When the request is not met within the uncommunicated time frame, the person often repeats the request (in a far less pleasant tone), and the doer, again, accepts. This cycle is then repeated until either the task is accomplished by the doer, the requester becomes frustrated and completes the task themselves (which will more than likely result in an argument), or a large argument ensues and the task becomes secondary.

In order to avoid the cycle all together, clear expectations should be communicated at the onset, either by the requester or the doer. If asked. “Can you take out the trash tonight?” there is a clear expectation set and additional requests will not be made until after the communicated deadline. If the requester is unclear, the responsibility to set expectations falls with the doer. “Sure I’ll take out the trash, just give me 10 minutes.” A follow-up will only occur if the time elapses and the task remains undone.

Communicate any deviations

When discussing expectations, it is important to remember that life happens. If expectations have been clearly communicated and agreed upon by both parties, any deviation from that must be communicated. If the requester does not know to adjust their expectations, the doer will be subject to the “nagging” follow-up. To avoid questions about the timeline, proactively provide answers. “I know I said I would get the trash out in 10 minutes, but I got a call. I will be sure it is done tonight.” This update acknowledges a failure to meet the initial deadline and allows the requester to shift their expectations.

No one likes to feel nagged, and frankly no one like to be a nag. With a few minor adjustments to the way we communicate, we can end the nagging for good.