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End Your Nagging Habit

Mono-Task continued...

They conducted a study with 135 students, asking each subject to name a pushy person who wanted them to work hard. Then the participants were instructed to solve anagrams on a computer; in some cases, the name of the nagger was flashed subliminally on the screen. The couple was surprised by what they discovered: The subliminal flashing caused people to do 25 percent worse than the control group — and those who faltered were com­pletely unconscious of what had thrown them off.

What's going on here? One interpretation is that people who are nag-resistant may be experiencing a control issue. Says Chartrand, "I think people like my husband perceive nagging as a threat to their autonomy." So when she needs help, she tries to make him feel like he's the decision maker. "I've learned that if I say, 'Could you stop for milk on the way home?' he's very likely to say, ‘We don't need milk.' So instead, I start the conversation by saying, 'Do you think we might run out of milk soon?' If he says yes, then I ask, 'Will you stop and get it on the way home? Or shall I?'" With that kind of approach, he usually takes charge.

Switch Perspectives
Being micromanaged is demoralizing, even for a toddler. Think of what kind of message it sends to your husband, a fellow adult, when you ask him to load the dishwasher, then you go back and restack the cups and saucers. "Look at it from his point of view," says Ramirez. "Sitting and watching the game on TV is pure fun. Getting up to load the dishwasher is not fun. And if his only 'reward' is having you silently criticize his work, what's the payoff for him?"

Recruit Help
If all else fails, try calling for reinforcements. Catherine Lambson of Vienna, VA, figured out that her husband excelled at getting their three children — ages 7, 9, and 11 — to take care of chores around the house. "He's much better at the job because I'm all talk and no action," she admits. "He'll ask them to do something twice. And if they still don't do it, he'll announce, 'OK, I'm going to do your chore for you now,' and they know there will be a real consequence, like less TV time."

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