No One Wants To Go On A Guilt Trip — How To Stop Yourself If You're Leaning Into This Behavior

If a close friend or family member has ever made you feel like you owe them a favor, they might have just manipulated you with a guilt trip. It could go something like this: After you've had to decline their invitation because of a work deadline, your overbearing friend says, "Oh, okay. I understand. I thought you could spend time with me at the concert since I got you that job in the first place when you were desperate for money. But no. I'll just sit at home by myself. No problem. 'Enjoy' your evening." Click — they hang up with no goodbye. Ouch. You put the phone down, sensing you've just been accused of something. 


But ... what if the phone call's coming from inside the house, and you're the one laying guilt trips on others? If you recognized yourself in the above scenario, double ouch. It's never fun to have an epiphany when we're the ones engaging in occasionally dopey behavior. If so, gently consider doing some shadow work to embrace your faults.

And Earth is a legitimately tough place to live, so we're all allowed to have our "off" days. Once we recognize we're engaging in a habit that drives a stake through our relationships, we are worthy of sending ourselves compassion, as Everyday Health notes. Compassion then gives us the capacity to patch up our own emotional leaks. The great thing about ruptures is that most of them can be repaired.


Why people guilt trip

We're being manipulative when — knowingly or unknowingly — we speak passive-aggressively to force a result, usually to get what we want. Social worker Liza Gold shared with Psych Central that when we exploit a loved one's emotions by making them feel awful if they don't comply with our request, that's a guilt trip. 


There's usually some kind of benefit when we engage in less-than-stellar behavior. The secret ingredient that can fuel passive-aggressive attempts to control others is often unexpressed anger. A guilt trip is a slightly sneaky way to unleash pent-up anger. 

If we look at patterns that develop in childhood, our parents often had to tell us "no" to protect us, and we might have become enraged ... but we needed our parents as kids and didn't fully express our anger. Relationship therapist Dr. Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., explains to Psychology Today that "magical thinking" in children's development often equates feelings with actions. Expressing anger toward caregivers might feel like "killing" them, leading us to bury our emotions.


When we're guilt-tripping someone, we're in victim mode: "Look at how much you hurt me; now, do what I want." When there's anger, it's usually hiding vulnerability, like feeling hurt or sad. It's not uncommon for us humans to avoid grappling with feeling vulnerable and exposed. We transform hurt or fear into anger and lash out. Instead, seek ways to embrace your emotional vulnerability and be more expressive with your feelings.

How to stop guilt tripping others

The number one remedy to stop yourself from laying guilt trips on people or from manipulating them with guilt is quite doable: It's a communication skill. Learn how to ask directly for what you want. If you catch yourself going into manipulator mode and feel yourself about to launch a campaign that someone better do something you want because otherwise, they're not a true friend — stop.


Ask yourself what you really want. What are your needs in this relationship? Once you know, be straightforward and assertive. If you're sick, instead of saying, "If you loved me, you'd stay home from work today," play around with, "I'm scared about the biopsy. Will you be able to stay here while I call the doctor?" Be willing to accept their answer. They may want to help but can't because of an obligation. Here's your opportunity to be graceful about it. 

Relationships are about both of you and as you act from more of a place of mutual consideration rather than just your needs, you will build trust, as the New Harbinger points out. Deep trust creates much more ease and love between people.