Anne Palumbo: How to excel at nagging

Anne Palumbo

I am always surprised by people who think they are good at something when they are clearly not.

Puffed up and full of false bravado, they enter into tricky life arenas without ever having cracked a book or taken a course or consulted an expert. You know who you are and you know what I am talking about.

Nagging is one of those tricky life arenas. Remarkably, people think they will be automatically good at nagging just because they have vocal cords. Hello! Nagging is an acquired skill that must be nurtured and practiced over time – every minute of every hour of every day – just like any other skill.

I mean, you don’t just cook one day: you read books, you try recipes, you up the ante with exhausting dinner parties. Same goes for nagging. You don’t just open your mouth and start nagging. How presumptuous! No, you practice, practice, practice, until you are ready to release a screechy complaint or directive that can proudly support the claim: I nagged him (or her) to death.

Have I made myself clear? I said, HAVE I MADE MYSELF CLEAR? OK, just asking. Now, the first thing you must do to become an expert nagger is to marry. Yes, it’s a requirement. Go and get yourself hitched: it’s the only way. Then, you must procreate. MUST. Having kids around to nag – especially teenagers – will add a depth to your nagging skills that you never imagined in your wildest dreams!

Once you have assembled a brood worth nagging, you will then need to focus on the precise bone you wish to pick. To get the ball rolling, ask yourself these three questions: What doesn’t the recipient of your attack (the “naggee,” as it were) ever want to do? Which, of all the undesirable tasks, might the naggee likely put off? Is there any behavior that triggers unfavorable comparisons to his or her side of the family?

If nothing comes to mind, let me offer up “cleaning the garage” as a good place to cut your nagging teeth, since no one likes to do it, and it can be put off indefinitely. Plus, the very fact that it needs to be cleaned lends itself, quite beautifully, to personal family attacks, as in: “Gee, what a surprise. You grew up with a junky garage, and now we have a garage so loaded with stuff we could launch an archeological dig. I guess the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the overloaded tree.”

Having pinpointed what it is you want to rail against, you must then hone in on the execution of your “nag.” First and foremost, you’ll want to throw down your gauntlet when your victim is most vulnerable. Timing is everything! On that note, superior nagging times are: right after a grueling day at work, minutes after a family blow-up, seconds after a root canal.

Next up? Your voice. In a word, you’ll want to do everything in your power to make it sound like a rusty drill bit boring into corrugated steel. And the closer you can get to the fragile eardrum, the better. Oh, and don’t forget to repeat yourself, over and over and over again. I said, DON’T FORGET TO REPEAT YOURSELF!

There you have it. Follow my tips and you will excel at nagging in no time. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, practice makes perfect. OK? We’re good? You get the picture?

So when do you plan to get around to it?

Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: