By M. Simone Boyd
Pop Quiz: is it easier for you to point out the positive or negative qualities in your loved ones? If you are anything like me it is SO much easier to pinpoint the negative rather than the positive. Especially, when it comes to family! But nagging and being overly critical is a sure-fire way to wreck your familial relationships. I learned that lesson from Abraham Lincoln and his wife. And it saved me from fussing at my husband for no good reason.
The Case of the Frozen Vegetables
One day, I opened the refrigerator to discover that two bags of frozen vegetables had been removed from the freezer, opened, and placed in the refrigerator. Both bags were clearly labeled: KEEP FROZEN. Yet, the vegetables had been left in the refrigerator.
This was a major problem. And, I was fuming. Only one other person—my husband--lived in our 300 sq. ft. studio apartment. So, I knew immediately who to blame. Why had our Trader Joe’s Country Potatoes & Wild Mushrooms been carelessly moved to the refrigerator? Each bag cost $2.99 (a total of $6.49 with tax). Didn’t I always say “waste not, want not?” This was clearly wasting. And, hungry children across the globe could have feasted for a week on $6.49.
I thought about calling my husband at work to ask about the reason for leaving frozen vegetables in the refrigerator. But, I decided against it. Thankfully. Because, I learned on the way to work that the great tragedy of Abraham Lincoln’s life was his marriage. Dale Carnegie in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says that Mrs. Lincoln nagged and harassed the life out President Lincoln for almost 25 years.
What Abraham Lincoln & His Wife Taught Me
Nothing Lincoln did was ever right. Mrs. Lincoln complained that:
• he walked funny
• his ears were too big
• his nose was too big, and that
• he was stoop-shouldered
And her nagging changed President Lincoln’s attitude toward her. As a circuit attorney, he remained on the road for three months in the spring and fall. The other attorneys went home on the weekends, but not Lincoln. He dreaded going home. So, he didn’t. Those are the results Mrs. Lincoln got from nagging.
After reading that story, I asked myself “Am I like Mrs. Lincoln?” The truth is: I was much like her. I could easily find things my loved ones did wrong. But, when it came to pointing out the positive I found myself at a loss for words. And that’s a problem.
Because science says that we must give five positive comments for every negative comment for a relationship to be healthy and survive long-term. Elizabeth Scott, M.S. says that “it’s well-known in the therapeutic community that negative statements from others can erode our sense of self-worth. That’s why we must be intentional and use our words to build our family up, especially our spouses.
Regarding those frozen vegetables, it turns out I blew the whole thing out of proportion. My husband was thawing them to eat for breakfast after his workouts.
Question: What strategies can we use to avoid nagging? And how will it improve our marriages?
M. Simone Boyd researches and writes about what makes relationships, marriages, and families thrive or die. For more tips on building strong relationships visit her blog at www.myfamilyfantastic.com or follow her on twitter @msimoneboyd