Dealing with Guilt Manipulation

Usually it is parents who use guilt manipulation on their children. Others can attempt it as well, of course. Guilt manipulation is fairly clear. "You don't need to visit, I'll be all right all alone." "All my friends see their grandchildren every week." "You don't need to write me, I guess you're too busy." These guilters won't just come out and ask for what they want. They want to manipulate you into doing their actions because you feel badly.

The problem is you begin to dread talking with them because it's just going to make you feel badly. They are going to say yet again why you are doing something wrong (in their passive-aggressive manner). You can't scold them, because they're not openly yelling at you. In fact, they are taking a passive sympathy stance, so if anything you're drawn into making THEM feel better!

People continue to do something when it works. They are being encouraged to keep it up if it is successful. If someone finds guilt tripping you is a great way to get you to do something, why would they stop? They have the perfect answer to their needs.

The solution - while it is hard - is to NOT let it work. You are in complete control. If their technique fails, then they will try something else. Maybe something more productive.

You cannot *change them*. They have honed their technique over many years so simply telling them "you are trying to use guilt manipulation on me" is rarely going to trigger an Aha! moment in them. They simply won't listen. So the only way to achieve a change is to change how YOU react.

So if someone tries to manipulate you with guilt, step back. Think logically about the situation. If you really are at fault, then apologize with sense. If someone says "I must not matter, you were late to 10 meetings in a row" and you WERE late then think logically about it, set your schedule to get there a half hour early next time and explain that concrete step to them.

However if it is an ILLOGICAL guilt situation, like "You're too busy to respond to me, don't even bother ..." when you have been actively responding to them, do not get drawn into their game. Say rationally, "I have been responding to you, did you not get my message for some reason?" Bring it back to a concrete level. If they say "You never call, I guess you must be busy," state "I called you on Monday and Wednesday. Are you saying you would like to be called more often? What schedule would you wish?" You can then negotiate on concrete terms. If you really can only call every other day, then explain that logically and suggest alternate things the person can do in the meantime.

The most important thing is to NOT respond to the guilt. If the person learns guilt works on you then they will keep doing it eternally. They will have trained you to respond to it.