“Nag.” A word that gives a negative connotation to the act of “requesting.” It’s an example of a trump card. I resent all “trump words” in relationships that, regardless of context, allows the speaker an undeserved edge in an argument.
That word NAG. I’ve heard this used in some unbelievable context.
“You left your dirty socks in the foyer again! I just cleaned – we have guests coming.”
“Don’t be a nag!”
“Could you take the garbage out? The truck is right there right now, and it’s your only chore.”
“Don’t be such a nag!”
There is NO WAY the latter person should win this argument!
There are ripping effect of these trump words that pre-empt relationship.
Example (if you’re not interested in an example, “conversation hijacking”, skip to *****) :
Someone with a beautiful heart you’d like to keep in your life. He has a horrible habit of conversation hijacking. Like this.
He might start by asking a question.
“What did you do yesterday?”
“I bought a new chair!”
“I haven’t bought any new piece of furniture in a while. I carried around everything I bought for my first apartment and. . . . . . . . . . . . [an entire story unfolds]”
“How was the conference?”
“I met some great people!”
“I really like people I work with too. In particular, I like how I can meet people from all over the world in my industry. Like we have a branch in England, and. . . . . . . . ”
Or I might start a topic.
“I cycled 1200 km this time last year for charity.”
“I too know someone who cycle. He cycled coast to coast.”
I hope you get how “conversation hijacking” works. It is a change of topic that leaves the other person feeling dismissed, unimportant, uninteresting, and used. You don’t see it as a change of topic? You probably hijack conversations too. You might be mad at me right now for saying that, but it won’t take 2 days before you will catch yourself. And, now you know, you can catch and stop yourself.
If you ask these people, which I have done many times, they will tell you “I’m only trying to connect, right?” like I’m the one who needs to be educated.
It is the change of topic. The topic is not the furniture. Not conferences. Not cycling. It’s me. The topic is me. It is when I’m supposed to feel this other person wants to get to know me by hearing my stories.
How about an advanced example.
“I feel disheartened that there is a poor attitude among people in this city about being a community.”
“Oh I don’t know! Where I grew up, people literally fight others based on the smallest things. . . . . . . [a whole story].”
The topic is “I feel disheartened,” not “people’s attitude.” A good listener would respond, maybe, “What do you mean by ‘attitude’?” or “Could you help me understand what you mean by maybe giving me some examples?” Or even “oh that sucks,” and let the speaker continue?
This one’s confusing if the topic is “I feel” or if it is “poor attitude”? Yes, sometimes discussions about poor attitude starts like this too. Listen to the tone and/or the “feeling word.” Do you think they want a debate about attitudes, or are they expressing an emotions? There is your answer. If you’re not sure, don’t make a move till you are.
Am I needy? Do I have a greater need to be heard than others? No.
Do I have a keener observation than others for moments that let me down and further investigate the mechanisms of the incidents? Yes.
Will I save some people’s friendships, relationships, and business networking by calling their attention to this? Yes, I truly believe I will.
Nothing turns people away than making them feel unworthy. And conversation hijacking doesn’t just make them feel unworthy – it also comes with emotional let-down because it first gets their hopes up then drops them.
When someone takes the time to sit with me, there is an assumption they want to get to know me better. And I’d ask (usually I’d have already asked) about their day or their stories and listened to them, sincerely, for half an hour.
So it’s like waving a bone to a dog then taking it away. Had you left the napping dog alone, it wouldn’t have been disappointed. But you had to ask “How was your day?” then take it away.
When this trend persists, I do bring it up. “When I try to talk about what I’ve done, I’m excited that you want to hear about me and get to know me. It really helps if the topic stays on me for a little while.” They respond with the standard, “I’m only trying to connect with you by sharing my stories that have something in common, right?” And all of them say this with the tone of “GAWD.”
One recent example – the guy admitted to not being a great listener (though it was about his defensive speech patterns rather than about conversation hijacking) and told me he listened to an audio lecture on active listening. It made zero difference.
What do I do. Do I keep reminding him and risk being called a nag, or do I just shut up and simply not see him again?
The former might have some extremely unpleasant moments. When I get called a nag. When I have to convince them this is chasing me away and be accused of not accepting them for who they are.
Or maybe I should save myself a trouble and accept them for exactly who they are from afar?
People use trump cards to win that argument. Some are aware of what they might lose in return (e.g. A friend, a spouse), but the urge to win has taken over.
Many are unaware of the great negative impact to them of using the trump cards to win arguments they have no business winning.
We need, as a society as a whole, have to call these actions out. But we can’t call out things that don’t have a name. You know why “conversation hijacking” is so common? There is no term for it. Google would only have a few results for “conversation hijacking,” and all but two are a different use (butting into a conversation already on-going). So, everyone sees this extremely annoying phenomenon, but no one knows to call “conversation hijacking!”
We need a term for “the use of trump-card words to unjustly win an argument” so we can start calling them out. What is your suggestion?