We got some insight from John Izzo, author of the book Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything (Simon & Schuster, 2011) about how taking responsibility for change can improve your life, relationships and career. He shares his top five tips for putting a stop to nagging in your relationship. "Nagging by both husbands and wives is corrosive," says Izzo. "Nagging and consistent criticism erodes a relationship over time."
1. Take responsibility
While it may seem like whatever it is you're nagging your partner about has nothing do with you, Izzo suggests taking a closer look and owning your part of the problem. "We each contribute to almost every problem," Izzo explains. "Figure out how you are contributing to the issue that you're nagging about." For example, if you ask your husband to clean up after dinner but end up taking on the task yourself -- and then nagging him for never helping out -- something needs to change. "Your need to have it done right away means you wind up doing it," says Izzo. Instead of nagging, leave the kitchen and let your husband clean up in his own time.
2. Make it a conversation
No one likes to be told what to do or to feel as though they're being belittled, which is the effect that nagging has on a person. Creating a discussion is a much better option for the both of you. "Engage your partner in a conversation rather than constant badgering," says Izzo. "Ask them what's getting in the way of them doing whatever it is that you want them to do, be it clean more, drive slower or be more romantic." Getting your partner involved in a conversation about what needs to be done and how best to do it works far better than nagging.
Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how changing your tone and choice of language leads to better communication (and less nagging) on page 2
3. Step up first
If you and your partner are constantly nagging each other, Izzo suggests that one of you should step up and make a change. "Stepping up is contagious, but someone has to start," he says. Make a list of the things your partner nags you about and start working to change them. After a few days, ask if your partner has noticed and request some feedback. Ideally, they will reciprocate and address some of the things you've been nagging them about. "Nothing will get someone to step up faster than someone else going first."
4. Tweak your language
Practise using "I" language instead of "you" language, says Izzo. Rather than simply accusing your partner of being a bad driver (which will likely just make him angry), tell him that it makes you nervous when he drives too fast. Instead of calling him lazy, tell him you feel tired and uncared for when you have to do all the housework. "Own your own feelings and try not to be accusatory," says Izzo. That way there's context to what you're saying and it doesn't come off as insulting or demeaning.
5. Share and share alike
Nagging often doesn't work because it seems very one-sided. One person wants something from the other, but doesn't offer anything in return. "Try quid pro quo instead of demands," Izzo advises. Rather than just nagging your partner to do some housework, offer something in return -- all relationships should involve give and take. "He may be happy to clean the house more often if you're willing to go out to dinner more often or come watch him play sports," says Izzo.
Nagging is an easy habit to develop, but it doesn't have to be the only way you and your spouse communicate. Learning to be less accusatory and more open to discussing what needs to be done can help take some of the stress out of your marriage. Says Izzo: "Replacing criticism with respect can significantly improve the happiness and satisfaction in a relationship."
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