Whether you are working with your partner, your teenage children or a work colleague the principle is the same. What you say and the way in which it is said, the tone of voice, the words you use and the timing of when things are said all have the capacity to widen the gap between you and the other person to let them off the hook as they can rationalize your nagging as unreasonable, or to make them think.

If you want things to be different you have to change old patterns of behaviour. Listening to yourself and understanding what that triggers in the other person is a vital step to creating a different future. This article uses the relationship between workaholics and their partners as the focus, but you can use the principles when dealing with any relationship.

Most partners of workaholics feel neglected; they see themselves taking second place to their partners work. Clients often describe how their partner will take the time and trouble to listen to a member of their staff far more readily than they do them or their children. “If they loved me enough they would want to spend time with me.” They make the assumption that it is lack of love which causes their partner to spend long hours away from them. Their frustrations and sense of loneliness take over and as soon as their partner gets home the frustrations spill over and they share how they are feeling and the recriminations begin.

Like so many of the strategies we use when we are feeling un-resourced it is incredibly unproductive. Despite the fact that the strategy rarely works, many partners (and parents) find they go into nag mode knowing it is destined to fail and make them feel bad into the bargain. Einstein’s definition of madness is to carry on doing the same thing even though we know it doesn’t work. Yet millions of us continue to behave in a set way long after we know it is failing. This is not about blaming. We do the best we can given the personal resources at our disposal. What we want to do is to help you feel you have a wider range of resources at your disposal and the choice when to use them.

To understand why it fails so often you need to take a step back and take a long hard look at what is really going on. Understanding what is actually happening can also give you the opportunity to behave differently.

Most workaholics are workaholics because of some deep seated need within themselves. Many are driven to succeed on terms which only they can define as they push themselves long after most people would feel highly successful. For some, it is the dread of failure rather than the pull of success which drives them. A poor sense of self worth developed in childhood, the need to feel significant by doing things for others, or having external verification of worth are all common reasons for people feeling more secure in their working life than in their personal life.

You know your partner well. Consider what is driving them? Think about the relationship they had with their parents, siblings or at school.
Partners will often respond disproportionately to a particular tone of voice or to being told that they have failed. It often hits a deep seated raw nerve which has been created during their formative years. The nagging becomes synonymous with a parent telling them how useless they are or a teacher or class bully belittling them.

Over the next few days just listen to yourself. Put yourself into the shoes of the other person and consider how you would respond.

Be honest with yourself, but be constructive. This is not about blaming. It is about seeing more clearly why things have gone wrong and doing your best to find a productive way forward for you and your partner. Finding a win – win solution is always best. Making it a competition between you and their work is a risky business.

Over the next few days think about how you handle yourself when dealing with your partner. You are the only person you can truly control. Think about what you truly want. If you want to change the relationship you have with your partner for the better then simply waiting for them to change is unlikely to give you the result you want. To change things for the better you have to make the decision to change the one person in your power. That is YOU.

Think about the way in which you speak, when you choose to bring things up and how you couch things. Pouncing on your partner as soon as they come in tired and irritable from work is probably not the most productive time to talk about how unreasonable you think they are, at least not if you want them to truly listen to you. Run the conversation in your head and plan to do it differently. As a general rule of thumb make a distinction between how you feel about them and their behaviour. “I love you very much but I find ------ really difficult.” Keep calm and try not to see it as a point scoring exercise.

Making a change to your approach can make a difference over time. Be realistic, if your partnership has been rocky for an extended period of time it can take time for a new strategy to work.


Author's Bio: 

Gina Gardiner is one of the UK's leading Leadership Coaches.
Gina supports people at individual or organizational level to develop confidence, leadership and people skills. Gina is the author of two books “Kick Start Your Career” and “How YOU Can Manage Your Staff More Effectively and is also a Neuro Linguistic Master Practitioner and a qualified coach.
To download her free management ecourse...graduatesolutions.co.uk