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5 Ways To Get Him To Actually Listen To Your Nagging

Men hate naggers. Allow Cosmo to show you how to ask for (and get) what you want--without him being resentful.

It’s almost every woman’s conundrum: How else do you deal with selectively deaf men who simply won’t listen? You want to tear your hair out and make like a broken record by telling him—over and over again—that the door needs to be fixed, he shouldn’t leave the toilet seat up, etc. It doesn’t seem to be working, though. The shelf door is still broken and he still leaves the toilet seat up. And when you point that out, he tells you to stop nagging him all the time. Arrrrgh! What do you do with this man?!

To nag without snags—and achieve actual results—learn how to to do it the Cosmo-certified way.

1. Get The Right Tone.

In other words, stop whining. There’s nothing more irritating to your guy than that tone of voice when you’re about to start nagging about something. It’s like a reflex: You switch on your tone and he switches off his receiver. Anything that you say after that is like static on your TV in the middle of your favorite program (read: irritating noise).

Vince, 30, a software engineer, agrees: “Women tend to use a high-pitched, complaining, falsetto voice while griping about something. And that’s like a sound-operated switch for me to tune out to other frequencies.” Many women tend to focus too much on the problem and forget the effect that their speech is having on the listener.

Get It Right: Try not to change your tone when you start complaining. It might be true that your partner isn’t doing what he agreed to do, but using The Whine on him isn’t going to help. The most you’re likely to do is get into another fight. Treat the conversation as a problem-solving session instead of a whinefest.

Also, pick your moments. Five minutes after he’s returned from a tiring day at work may not be the best time to bring up the leaky faucet that he promised to fix last week or that he forgot to pick up the gift for a party this weekend. Give the guy a break. Instead of getting upset and picking a fight, try explaining what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, and how far up the priority issue the said deed is. Have a (wo)man-to-man talk about taking responsibility and sticking to promises. Please, don’t whine!

2. Are You Wording It Right?

In any conversation or situation, the presentation of the matter is almost as important as the matter itself—especially so, when you’re dealing with a man whose attention span rivals that of a goldfish. “When your partner is being nagged, he or she probably feels attacked personally. Nagging can make your spouse feel inadequate,” say Sheri & Bob Stritof, authors of The Everything Great Marriage Book. Do you find yourself in attack mode even before the conversation starts? Are you simply piling the blame on him? Are you losing the point of the argument in the nitty-gritties? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself. Often, the conversation tends to spiral out to include past misdeeds and old gripes; and that adds to the irritant value.

Get It Right: Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t asking you to be all lovey-dovey with him when he fails to do something he promised he would—10 years ago. The point of the complaining is not to make him feel like a worm. So, the approach must focus on getting him to see your point and not to antagonize him completely. Also, you might want to try starting your sentences with something like “would you” or “will you” instead of “could you” or “can you.” The difference is subtle but it works. It’s important to get across the urgency of the work that requires doing without sounding bossy.

Another rule of thumb—and you already know this—is to not bring up past issues. Stick to the problem that you have at hand, instead of raking up the dead past. It doesn’t add meat to your argument and just further strengthens the point that you are, face it, a Chronic Nag. Plus, finish the fight. Resolve the issue at hand, keep a cool head, and find the solution. Leaving stuff for later may not be the best thing to do because he knows it isn’t over and he’s already preparing what he’ll say when it comes up again…as it is no doubt expected.

3. Don’t Find Fault. Find A Solution.

This is the most important thing to keep in mind during a fight…which is what a nagging session eventually leads to. It’s super easy to fall into a mud-slinging trap and pile on the blame, so remember to stay on track and try to constructively come up with a result.

When your partner is being nagged, it almost always brings up feelings of resentment and defiance. By putting on a nagger’s cloak, you make him feel like he’s 15 years old again and his mom’s shaking her finger at him, telling him to clean up his room or depriving him of dessert. Remember: He doesn’t need you to be his mom. “Nagging puts you in the parent role, and your spouse in the child role. This isn’t healthy for your relationship,” point out the Stritofs.

Get It Right: First, put down the bazooka, bury the hatchet, and remove the warpaint. And then maybe, you can talk calmly and sensibly. If all your sentences seem to begin with “why don’t you…” or “you never...” and you can still hear the door hinge creaking, it’s time to change tactics. Since both of you are mature adults, a dialogue should be good enough to broker peace.

Begin by setting the conditions of your deal. Fix a time frame for the work to be done and try not to badger him until his time expires. And when it still isn’t done, don’t instantly pull out all the heavy artillery and start yakking away. The arched eyebrow sometimes works better than a lecture.

And finally, when a discussion begins, try not to get down to personal insults. Stand your ground but don’t demean your partner. Remember, the toilet seat isn’t more important than your relationship.

4. Are You Ignoring Positives?

Finally, after weeks of testing the limits of your tolerance, the tap isn’t dripping anymore. The match ended, your whining has stopped, and he finally ticked his to-do list. How do you react? You send a fervent thank you and sing Hallelujah while rolling your eyes. Your ‘‘thank you’’ is steeped in sarcasm; it sounds like you’re nagging—again.

Barbara and Allan Pease, authors of Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, say, “Women feel that nagging shows that they care, but men rarely see it in the same light. A woman will chide a man about throwing wet towels on the bed and not remembering to take out the garbage. She knows she’s being irritating, but believes the way to get through to a man is by repeating, over and over, the same instructions until they hopefully sink in one day. She feels the things she’s complaining about are based on truth so, while she knows she’s being annoying, she feels justified in continuing.” His unrecognized work will simply add to his frustration and strengthen his belief that you can never be pleased.

Get It Right: Ever wondered how strange it is that the fact that he leaves the towel on the bed is so irritating, but it never registers how organized he is when it comes to sorting important documents? So, are you focusing on the bad and ignoring the good, even if inadvertently? It’s a good idea to keep your nagging in perspective. If that creaking door has finally been fixed, a gesture of acknowledgement would go a long way in erasing the memory of the lengthy nagging sessions that have preceded it (always a good thing, because soon, there’s going to be more reasons to begin the marathon again). So, show your appreciation when he picks up that towel or when the dirty clothes do end up in the laundry bin. Give him a kiss and say, “Thanks for remembering, hon.”
5. Could You Be Wrong?

After all is said and done, the reason for nagging must justify the nagging. So, the big moral/ethical/practical debate must revolve around the question, “Is it worth it?” This question reminds you to pick your battles. If you think about it, there may be some things you can just let go.

Since we can’t avoid certain mishaps, untoward incidents, and clashing expectations, it’s important to pick the irritant that really needs the nagging. Of course, that kind of filtering needs a lot of analyses. But the most important thing is to deserve your right to nag. Nothing is more exasperating than a fault-finder whose own faults are glaringly obvious.

Get It Right: Start by acknowledging the different perspectives that the two of you may have with regard to the housework and chores. Then, set a good example. Make sure you put your clothes in the laundry basket and do the dishes when it’s your turn. Ask yourself if you’ve been avoiding any of your chores recently and admit it to him. Let him know that if he was anything like you, it would have been you ducking accusations right now!

And once the rules have been set, remember that they’re not cast in stone. If it’s something that you can fix without too much trouble, then spare the fight. Fix it. That’s not to say that you should encourage his shirking chores, but it’s okay to let it go sometimes.

And sometimes, just for the heck of it, don’t nag. See what happens.

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