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Nagging and regret: Changing how we speak

Communication. Such an incredibly simple concept, yet probably the hardest "skill" to master in relationships.

We make and break relationships based on our communication. We nag. We yell. We scream. For what? What the heck does that accomplish?

I'm guilty. I've nagged. I've yelled and I've screamed at a wide variety of people I love. I'm not proud of it. But, what I've learned over time and experience is that we can change how we react with pretty minor adjustments.

Take this scenario:

Your husband is late again coming home from work. Since COVID began, he started swinging by his buddy's house for drinks on the way home instead of the bar. You are furious. And, rightfully so. You've worked all day, picked up the kids from daycare and are trying to get dinner ready. All without help. He walks in and you say, "Nice of you to finally join us." Your husband yells back, "I can't even walk in the door without you nagging me. I've worked all damn day too and deserve a break!".

What if, instead, we tried a different way. Reacting this way is an acquired skill and, if I'm being honest, it isn't one that I've mastered. It is much easier to react in frustration, anger or rage than taking a deep breath and realizing the consequences of what comes out of our mouths. Often, we are trying to get a point across but instead, we annoy and frustrate the people we love. They feel that you are nagging and criticizing. What if we try communicating differently?

How? By using positive communication. Annoying, I know. I'm actually rolling my own eyes. Honestly, it sounds worse than it really is. One easy approach to starting is by using an "I" statement instead of a "you" statement. That simple change can shift the whole conversation from one of blame to one of compassion.

In this scenario, what if you said, "I really miss when we used to cook dinner together with the kids." Do you notice the difference? You didn't accuse him of anything, you simply shifted the tone of the conversation. You didn't mention the drinking or that you, too, deserve a break. You simply stated one way his behavior was impacting you. Slowly, but surely, these conversations are bound to have an impact and positively influence change at home.

Scenario #2

What if you don't have someone in your life suffering from addiction? The same rule applies. If your kid leaves his Legos scattered about the living room and you scream, "Johnnie, pick up these stupid Legos like I told you to!" from down the hall you are likely to be met with a mad kiddo, stomping his feet and, if you are lucky, picking up the Legos. More likely though, you will be picking up those damn Legos.

Try that one tip again: switch to an "I" statement. "Johnnie, it really hurts my feet when I step on these Legos. Could you please pick them up?". Again, a subtle change but if I were Johnnie, I would want to pick up those Legos so I wasn't hurting my mom's feet.


From relationships with our loved one suffering from addiction to relationships with our kids and parents, communication matters. There are plenty more tips to communicating positively to come. For this week, try this one tip and let me know how it goes for you!

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