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The Zen Art of Creative Nagging - for Beginners

Updated on November 19, 2009

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!


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!







Submit a Comment

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 7 years ago

    Jason, there's a name for people like you - rationalists? there's some scientific name - empiricists? People who give you all the perfectly good reasons the nag in question is not on their priority list. I know what you mean - I actually don't like nagging, but when I became a mom I found out it was impossible not to sound like one. I gave up and tried to get creative with it, and now my kids are grown, but I have the nagging habit - forgive me! :) And I will never nag YOU!

  • Jason R. Manning profile image

    Jason R. Manning 7 years ago from Sacramento, California

    Very entertaining, I suppose this really depends on the circumstances and who is saying what. I am not much of a nagger and therefore I have nearly zero tolerance for such. I always pull out the priorities list if someone is giving me grief, I then outline one through whatever number it takes for them to get the point…I like your style though, just don’t attempt any nagging on my site.


  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 7 years ago

    But Winsome, I've heard every one of those nags somewhere before! I think it was me - yeh I heard em from me! What a great place is the Belly Laugh Gym! I need a lifetime membership.

  • Winsome profile image

    Winsome 7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

    Hey I was just kidding, I don't have a nag a tive bone in my body and yes snag a nag although no one would actually respond to such drivel. Thanks for visiting the Belly Laugh Gym =:)

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 7 years ago

    Listen, I hate to say it, but you really don't need any lessons at nagging, do you, Winsome? I suppose you inherited the trait - it certainly can be learned, but it helps if you have the nagging gene. Thanks for the comment! Ok if I use some of those nags?

  • Winsome profile image

    Winsome 7 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

    Now you know how annoying that is don't you?

    How many times have I told you how annoying that is?

    Do I have to tell you again?

    Are we really having this conversation?

    You are really going to make me say it aren't you?

    I bet you are very proud of yourself about now.

    What would it take for you to get over yourself and stop?

    There you've made me say it--so stop already!

    Do I have to say it again?

    How many times do I have to say that you are annoying the %&*~ out of me?

    Are you going to make me come over there?

    Don't make me come over there!

    If I have to come over there I can't be responsible for what I may do.

    Would you just stop!

    Ok now you've done it.

    I'm going to call Meg.

    No, no it's too late. I told you and you wouldn't listen.

    Believe me you will be sorry.

    Meg, Meg? An answering machine? Again?

    Meg have I ever told you how annoying that is?

    Thanks for the fun. =:)

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 7 years ago

    Ixxy - cold sarcasm works. I may have to develop some more of that, I used to be real good at it - much more subversive and less easy to ignore than nagging. And if you guys are arguing over who GETS to do dishes - come on over here and I'll let you do all the dishes you want! I know nagging is just another form of abuse, but for some reason I continue to get away with it. cold sarcastic subversion, hmmmmmmmm. . . getting right on it!

  • lxxy profile image

    lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

    When k@ri nags me I usually end it quickly. Not that hell hath no fury than a woman's scorn--we're usually fighting over who gets to do the dishes, or what not have you. It's the silly fights that you have to enjoy. :)

    At on that end, I don't nag..I like to be sarcastically subversive. Which, I suppose, could almost be the same thing..

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 7 years ago

    Yes? Just a minute . . . sorry about that. Now what did you say? Oh, you commented because I nagged you? I wasn't nagging YOU! Why do you always take things so personally? You commented because you wanted to, that's all. And thanks!

  • Kangaroo_Jase profile image

    Kangaroo_Jase 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

    Ok this is an absolute funny hub, but it kept NAGGING at me to comment, so I have commented, only if it stopped all that NAGGING, I would have finished this comment by now.....

    Nicely done, and appreciate the laughs it provided.

  • wrenfrost56 profile image

    wrenfrost56 8 years ago from U.K.

    Laughing with tears, very funny, great style and flow. Liked this very much.

  • thekidandblue profile image

    thekidandblue 8 years ago from London, England

    as someone who's been nagged to death millions of times (that's enough, hyperbole ed) I found this post really great thank you.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Broooo ahhhhhh haaah ha ha! I agree. Demand and command and it takes less time than nagging. Nagging is so time consuming!!

  • kirstenblog profile image

    kirstenblog 8 years ago from London UK

    I think I wanna learn the craft of commanding lol. Why nag if you can command, now to get a white cat to stroke and a few minions too!

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Denno - DUST! DUST? God knows how hard I try to keep a clean hub household! While you were there couldn't you have just saved me the trouble? I would have appreciated it. And I don't see any dust around here! Well, thanks for stopping by, anyway. I'm glad you liked it! lol

  • profile image

    Denno66 8 years ago

    Very convincing...oh, um, by the way, I noticed that the corner of this hub has a liiiiiittle bit of dust on it, not much, don't worry, but just a speck, really. Wouldn't it really be better if you just, well, you know, dusted it off a little? Hmmmm? This hub was riproariously funny! Thank you! :-)

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Yes Pacal, you are right - your idea to call you by name - I took YOUR IDEA!

    Nell - I'm glad you like it - if I can make people laugh it makes my day!

    Justine - Yes, I believe you did like it! yippee~!

  • profile image

    Justine76 8 years ago

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! :)

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 8 years ago from England

    Really really funny! you must know the old saying, women nag and men just explain in a justifiable way! cheers that made my day. Nell

  • profile image

    Pacal Votan 8 years ago

    So why is it that you call me by my name, as you pointed out - deliberately? Is this another attempt to make a mockery of me, mega1? Because I have written a hub about the virtues and/or benefits of calling someone by name some seven months ago.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    ok, ok already. does it have to rhyme?

  • profile image

    Pacal Votan 8 years ago

    Leave my fanclub or I'll report you to the hub authorities that you haven't written any poetry yet! Do it now while there is... time.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Oh? I will have to reconsider this whole situmawation. I confused. Nagging is acshully a way of life, isn't it? I mean I thought everybody knew that! I am going to leave you fan mail and there is nothing you can do about it! NYAAANEYAAH nya na na!

  • profile image

    Pacal Votan 8 years ago

    lol mega1, I loved this. I'm easily convinced of the merit of ideas even if they are made up or start out as a joke. I think you've just got it correct. :)

    Joining the fan club of someone who has written a hub about how much he dislikes fans is the rudest thing I can imagine. Get out of my fan club now, or else I'll get the word out that I have found an old hippie that writes fab.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Yes, yes I'm doing it now! thank you !

  • abcd1111 profile image

    abcd1111 8 years ago from Glen Ellyn, IL (Chicago suburb)

    Stopping by to help you reach 1000 and thought you needed nagging to keep hubbing!

  • profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Hahaha You know it! I studied with some masters - but I think my own kids knew that nothing would happen - they just humored me most of the time.

  • profile image

    Judy 8 years ago

    You've made your case, girl! My most successful ploy as a mother was to count to three, in long, dire-sounding declarations. Never, ever did I say what would happen if I actually got to three, but it always worked, and I never did get to three.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    hey Gus - you see the distinction here is that naggers took it on themselves to tell you what to do. and nagging is only nagging if you ask for something over and over without relevance to actual schedules. I have never been able to respond well to nagging which is why I'm trying so hard to cut them off at the pass!

  • GusTheRedneck profile image

    Gustave Kilthau 8 years ago from USA

    Mega1 - I have a friend who gets nagged frequently and bossed around a lot at her work. Frequently enough, the nagger tries bullying and flat-out commanding. Her response is with a single word - "AND?" She says that ordinarily cuts the nagging off abruptly. Gus

  • profile image

    Patrice 8 years ago

    okay you got me to read your blog you... you...

    YOU NAG! (hilarious, BTW)

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    Yeah o how wonderful to nag and nag and nag and then one beautiful day it happens! You get what you want! and then there's no stopping and - hey, do you think this could become just like all those other addictions? What will I do? Join Naggers Anonymous!

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

    Quality and quantity work for me!

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    thankyou so much! I know it sounds so authoritative - have no idea where that all came from - would like to be a better nagger, myself - that is why I guess I wrote all this - it started out as a joke, but now I kinda believe that nagging makes the world go round! really nice to hear from you.

  • bayareagreatthing profile image

    bayareagreatthing 8 years ago from Bay Area California

    This is soooooooooooo funny! I am still laughing. True and funny. I appreciate the great writing!


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