Most of us have dealt with guilt trips at one time or another and know how tricky to deal with they can be. Usually the person giving the guilt trip knows exactly which buttons to press for their desired outcome, however this behaviour is often done in an underhanded or subtle way, so that you often might not even realise at the time what is happening!
If you have yielded to a guilt trip and done what the guilt tripper was trying to get you to do, you will know that it leaves you with an icky feeling after and if you don't do what they are trying to get you to do it can also leave feeling bad, which whether conscious or not is the aim of a guilt trip. You're in a no-win situation. So, how do you deal with guilt trips and practice communicating and behaving in a healthy way, even when unhealthy behaviour is directed at you? It takes some work, but it is possible to change our own reactions to guilt trips.
Fundamentally, the guilt tripper is saying you and / or you are wrong and need to be another way or do something differently for them to be happy.
• "X will be so upset if you don't..."
• "You're not going to leave me all alone, are you?" etc...
• " You really should..."
• " If you were a good friend / son / daughter / wife / husband..."
Or the worst ine... "the silent treatment"!
The guilt tripper is trying to get their own needs met, however they go about it in a manipulative way, making others feel bad in order to get what they want which isn't healthy for either party and which usually ends up pushing people away. They make themselves seem less capable or more in need than they actually are, either by the explicit or explicit implication that they think you have to do what they think you should do, otherwise something is wrong! It doesn't serve them and makes them think that they need certain things in order to be happy. Continuing to jump to a guilt trippers tune, reinforces their bad behaviour and that they can get what they want via this route and is crazy making for you in the meantime! Here's a few ideas about how to deal with guilt trips in a healthy way:
1. Don't Take it Personally
The aim of a guilt trip is to make it personal to you, so that you succumb to their will. If you can avoid this trap, it's easier to deal with guilt trippers head on as you won't be emotionally triggered or vulnerable. The difficult part becomes when you buy into the guilt and start questioning yourself which is exactly the intention of a guilt trip. It's not easy to stop doing this, but when you start seeing the patterns in guilt trippers behaviours, you will be more able to take a step back and see that it isn't personal and says volumes about them, rather than you. You can then start seeing the guilt trip coming...
2. Watch Out for the Signs
You may notice that certain people in your life are regularly guilt tripping you and you can start to see the signs before it happens. If you always feel talked into something or feel bad after an encounter with someone, you are probably being guilt tripped. Start noticing the people that lift you up and the people that pull you down, whether through guilt trips or other manipulative behaviour.
3. Build Up Your Self-Esteem
When your self-esteem is low or you are feeling low in confidence or inner resolve, guilt trippers have an easier job in getting you to do what they want. If you notice you often feel guilty and this is used against you by others, look at ways to build up your confidence and self-esteem. You don't deserve to be manipulated. The better you feel about yourself, the easier it is to listen to what feels right for you than being swayed by others agendas.
Practicing dealing with guilt trippers in a healthy and assertive way can help you to be more able to do what you need to do when things happen. You could do this by role playing with a supportive friend or coach. Each time you deal with a guilt tripper, even if it doesn't go exactly as you'd like, acknowledge your progress and awareness of this issue and resolve to keep tackling it and your commitment to healthy relationships for all concerned.
5. Stand Your Ground
When dealing with guilt trippers, you will more than likely need to stand your ground, especially if they used to the guilt trips working. Be firm and clear about what you can and can't do and don't let them persuade you into something you can't do or don't want to do. The more you stand your ground and let others know what they can and cant get away with, the easier it becomes in the long run as both of you re-establish new rules in your relationship.
5. Say No
When you start saying no to guilt trips and behaviours that don't work for you, you start avoiding the old pitfalls and you feel better. The people in your life who use guilt trips often start communicating in a healthy way (or leave your life).
When both sides are honest and direct about their needs and expectations, it can create more balance in the relationship and be healthier for all sides.
Jen Smith is a Life Coach and Writer. She has written hundreds of articles and has been featured in a variety outlets both online and in magazines. Jen has also coached hundreds of people, helping them to achieve their goals and dreams. Get your FREE "Beyond People-Pleasing" eBook and find out more about Jen at www.jenmsmith.com.