The Zen Art of Creative Nagging - for Beginners
If I’ve asked you once,
I’ve asked you a thousand times . . . Ok. WHY have you asked me a thousand times? If I didn’t do it on the tenth try, am I EVER gonna do it? Asking someone a thousand times, is it ever a good idea?
Well, yes, it is almost always a very good idea. The fine art of nagging REQUIRES that you NEVER give up - even after a thousand requests. It becomes a matter of principal that you do not give up. I will convince you of this now.
I learned to nag at an early age - before I even knew what I was doing. I could barely speak - except in grunts and I was already nagging - “uuuuh. Uuuahhhhh! NUUUUUUH!“ and always at least one of the eight other people in the house would give in to my demand. It was somewhat instinctive. I mean I absorbed the art of nagging from older sisters and brothers, from teachers, from my mom, from my dad, from the nagging animals - cows wanting to be milked, cats wanting out, dogs wanting to play fetch, I now believe sincerely that even plants will nag you to water and feed them.
by the way - WHY NO IMAGES? because I want you to really HEAR what I'm saying. No distractions. DO NOT BECOME DISTRACTED!
EVERYTHING alive nags - and then there are even feelings that nag. You know when you have that NAGGING feeling? you left the burner on back home on the stove and you’re six hours out of town and can’t find your cell phone to call your neighbor, the one you nagged into keeping the key to your home in case of emergency? Oh well. That nagging feeling may be wrong, but you know you have to go back anyway to get your cell phone. Internal nagging, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Later, when you are back on the road after hunting down your key and checking the stove and once again forgetting your cell phone - you will remember that you never turned the stove on in the first place this morning because you were out of coffee.
I have come to realize that there is a very dominant human gene for nagging and it is prevalent all over the world. People who are lacking this nagging gene do not survive, or if they do survive through puberty do not manage to capture a mate, or if they do finally marry, they are nagged TO DEATH by their partner!
Nagging crosses boundaries of cultures and nations and has its own language - as in “You KNOW you want to get this over with!” We all know what that means, but when you try to pin it down, it really doesn’t MEAN anything! Now THAT is really a QUALITY NAG!
“HOW many times have I asked you to get this over with?“ You will want to immediately do the thing you are being nagged to do, because you have no idea how many times you’ve been asked, probably a thousand times, and you don’t want to have to count the times and you feel guilty already, but you may have to do some polite questioning to find out WHAT that thing is. Like:
You KNOW you want to go ahead and just get it over with, now, so WHY don‘t you just do it?!
OK, OK, OK. I’m on it.
(pause) What exactly was it that I was gonna get it over with now?
SOOOOOOOO. . . when you are the one who is being nagged if you are SUPER-polite it will send them spinning off! Really catch em off guard. Try it - you may be pleasantly surprised.
My brother taught me that if you can get people to laugh about your nagging them to do something, you are almost there. You have almost gotten your way! He used to make me laugh so hard when he was trying to get me to do something he was really supposed to do, that I would go ahead and do it, happily. I cleaned his bathtub out one time after he had soaked his muddy, filthy self for about an hour - because he pointed out the way there were sedimentary rings of mud around the tub and challenged me to get the tub that dirty. GENIUS!
GET WHAT YOU WANT
THAT is what nagging is truly all about - getting your way! And if you can make it seem like you are making your request for the other person’s OWN GOOD, you have again created a QUALITY NAG!
My mother would ask in this placating voice “Honey, wouldn’t you feel better if your room was nice and clean?” And the thing is, that worked with me. It never worked on my sister, but it made SENSE to me. Yes. I WILL not only feel better with my room clean, I will feel better after I clean the kitchen and reorganize the cupboards and clear the refrigerator, too! (this is obsessive-compulsive and doesn’t really happen with most people, so don‘t think if someone does this sort of thing its because you‘re a good nagger, its only because they are OCD.)
Bad, unimaginative nagging actually has the opposite effect. You will not get what you want by just asking over and over. You have to make it IMPERATIVE that they do your bidding!
THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL my husband was ever going to do the laundry, no matter how much of it was his. It didn’t matter how long I “talked it over” with him. This was my idea back then of creative nagging - I would “talk it over” - pretend we were just having a conversation about it. I was shocked when his mom came to visit and had this magical way of saying - “Get your dirty laundry in that machine, buster, and while you’re at it, separate those colors from the whites.” MAN! She was something! That wasn’t even a nag! That was a command, an order! She never even HAD to nag! So confident! So powerful! I still haven’t been able to pull that off, even with my own kids. Afterwards she said to him, “Now, isn’t that nice? Everything’s better clean.” and he didn’t slam out the door or anything.
No matter what you do, though, do not make any concessions when your are nagging ( I learned this from my mother-in-law) and don’t do any trading off as in: “If you will just clean your room NOW,
I will drive you to the mall later.”
It is so important that you don’t let them see how desperate you have become. It is by far better to threaten than to “deal” with them - as in: “IF you don’t clean your room NOW, I will NOT drive you to the mall later.” Do you see the fine distinction there? OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. DO NOT BECOME DESPERATE and do not let them see how much you want this thing.
You may get so good
that you won’t have to actually SAY anything - you can just use hand gestures and facial expressions. See, you start out, like you do when training a dog, using the short verbal command with a gesture - FIRST, get there attention with a loud sound (drop something) then say “You NEED to get a haircut, TODAY” while making a clipping movement with your fingers. Later, all you will need to do is get their attention and make the scissors-fingers-clipping gesture in the air close to their ears.
This is enough to get you started preparing QUALITY NAGS - as with any art - you make it your own. Use some thought, put a little more time into it. You will find a way to embed your nag into their subconscious so deeply they will think it was THEIR IDEA! so that your own personality will become more convincing than theirs. (More on the subject of HOW TO DOMINATE YOUR MATE at a later time)
To review the steps to QUALITY nagging:
- Get their attention - any way you can.
- Exaggerate - “This has got to be done YESTERDAY, kiddo”
- Threaten - “Or else” is the best phrase ever
- Use short, meaningful, phrases - “DO IT!”
- Utilize guilt - “I have been asking you to clean the garage and now that your friends are here, what do you think they will THINK when they see that mess!”
or “You never even LISTEN to me, so why should I expect you to do anything for me!”
- Use hand gestures that help describe what you want them to do. Like, pushing an imaginary lawnmower, clipping hair. or just hand them the leash for the dog
- Do not make any concessions.
- Threaten some more.
And use their own memory against them:
“Remember what happened last time?”
OK. Now I know you can do it. In fact, why haven’t you been doing this all along? You know you’ve got it in you. Get on with it!