How To Avoid Being A Nag

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I've recently started allowing Pam, the girl I'm dating, insight into my sad financial management. Because Pam is more organized and "Type A" than I am, she got frustrated as soon as she got a look at my accounts.

Her criticism is well-founded and plentiful: "Why do you go to non-bank ATMs? Look at these last four withdrawals. You've spent over $10 in service fees."

My answer is: "Well, I was wasted and in need of cash."

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"Three cups of coffee a day? Do you really need to buy that much coffee?"

My answer is: "The coffee at work sucks."

The classic complaints are: men don't listen, and women nag. It's tough to change a partner's habits (such as time budgeting or smoking) because they often take it personally. The paradox is that you're only in their ear about it because you care so much about the quality of their life. If you don't want your lover to think you're a nag, you must practice constructive criticism.

The person being criticized must acknowledge they have a problem. I openly admit I suck with my money, and I want help. If your partner isn't ready to own up to their problem, you might reconsider tackling the issue with them. You will seem like a nag every time you try.

A "teacher" must avoid being hypocritical. Pam is great with her money. She'll pick up food to avoid tipping a delivery guy. She consistently tips 20%, while I sometimes tip a cabbie 25% just because he drove across a bridge, or because he was a nice guy.

There are a few elements in a man's perception of a nag. First of all, a nag is negative. A guy's life mantra is "ignorance is bliss." We sulk when someone blows up that little parade. Secondly, a nag is consistent. If your guy thinks "Oh man, I'm going to get it for this," a lot of the time, then you've lost him. If you erupt too often, your pupil might hide pieces of a story. I admit I've kept a few "details" away from Pam's search light because I feared the consequences.

Don't highlight the mistakes more than the triumphs. Sometimes I feel like Pam notices my dumb financial mistakes more than my successful moves (come to think of it, maybe I don't have any successful financial moves under my belt). And try to put the argument in his language. Pam might say: "You know if you went to your own bank's ATMs, that $10 you saved in fees would buy you 3 beers at happy hour." Maybe you can offer up a trade: "If you're better with your money, I'll stop making you watch Jersey Shore with me."

Finally, never expect perfection…at least not right away. Climbing a mountain without steps and support is overwhelming. As a teacher, you're helping your pupil by lighting the way and holding their hand. Don't lay down the law, walk away, and expect him to get it right away. The reason the rift is there is because their mind works differently than yours, and that's OK. Maybe I'm just saying: Be nice.

What kind of argument tactics does you use to avoid being a nag? Do you agree that changing habits is a difficult argument to tackle?

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