Even though it’s annoying to be reminded over and over again to do something, it’s best to resist getting defensive by saying “Stop nagging me.” If you respond like a child when you are treated like a child, the relationship pattern turns into an unpleasant parent/child dynamic: the disappointed parent trying to control the sullen or rebellious child.
Instead, you can avoid this dreaded pattern if you continue to act like an adult by asserting boundaries while showing compassion. Try to use understanding and reason while being honest about your needs. Simply because somebody wants you to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. However, relationships thrive only with candid, respectful and honest communication. Be clear. Let the person know if you plan to do the thing being asked later or simply don’t want to do it.
Here are some examples of how to respond. More important than the specific wording is your tone of voice.
I heard you. Unfortunately I won’t have time to do that any time soon. Perhaps you can take care of it.
I know you have good intentions but I need to tell you that I feel like a child when you tell me several times what you want me to do. Please just ask once.
I plan to get it done tomorrow. When you repeat yourself, I get very defensive. It would be helpful if you would resist repeating it.
I first want to finish what I’m doing. Please don’t ask me again.
When people repeat themselves and tell others what to do, it may be that they are frustrated by not knowing whether you remember what they’ve asked. So it helps to be clear about whether and when you are willing to help.
Or it may be that they are projecting their own anxiety onto those around them. If you respond with hostility, the anxious person will feel justified in thinking that you are the cause of his or her anxiety.
If on the other hand you remain calm and reasonable, and speak with candor and self-confidence, the anxious person is less likely to spiral into increased anxiety. Harmony can more easily be restored.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD