How To Stop Guilt Trips In Their Tracks

Victim of guilt trips

The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.

Ayn Rand

When I was a kid, my Mom’s sole mission seemed to be to get me to eat another bite of my food. She brought out all the stops. Telling me how hard she worked to make it. How it’d make me big and strong. And, that, if I loved her, I’d clean my plate. These little guilt trips worked pretty well and made me feel good about eating my dinner.

But, as adults, we often face a more damaging form of guilt trips. And, they usually come from people closest to us. At best, they’re misguided attempts to get us to do things other people think are best for us. And, at their worst, they’re a way of manipulating how we feel, think, and behave. Yet, the signs can sometimes be subtle and hard to recognize. And, it can be hard to know how to stop guilt trips from running our lives.

Types Of Guilt Trips

According to, there are several key types of guilt trips. Knowing how to recognize these will allow you to tackle them head-on. It will also save you stress and frustration down the line.

  • Manipulation – trying to get you to do something you wouldn’t normally do.
  • Conflict avoidance – being afraid of starting a conflict and choosing to handle an issue indirectly.
  • Moral education – getting you to do the “right” thing using their own moral guidelines.
  • Sympathy – trying to gain sympathy by making you feel like the wrong-doer.

Occasional guilt can act as an internal moral compass letting us know when we’ve made a mistake. But, guilt trips are a way to manipulate this guilt mechanism to serve someone else’s purpose.

Impact Of Guilt Trips

In the short term, guilt trips can seem like benign ways of being persuasive. But, in the long term, guilt trips can damage relationships, eroding trust and understanding. They can also lead to long-lasting feelings of resentment. You may feel manipulated and trapped, and feel unappreciated in your relationship.

This can further lead to resistance and rebellion. When forced to do something against your will, you can feel driven to break the chains of manipulation. This may drive you to do the opposite of what the other person wants. This will fail to bring the desired outcome for the guilt tripper and drive a wedge in the relationship.

How To Address Guilt Trips

The best way to deal with guilt trips and stop them in their tracks is through direct communication. Guilt trips are often based on side-stepping important conversations. You can stop this behavior by addressing the “elephant in the room.” Here are three important tactics for doing this from

  1. Acknowledge. Recognize the other person’s underlying concerns and address them with empathy. Validate their emotions and make them feel heard.
  2. Share your feelings. Show that you recognize you’re being manipulated and how it makes you feel. Share how guilt trips can damage your relationship in the long term.
  3. Set Boundaries. It’s important to communicate what you will and will not accept in a relationship. Be upfront about your boundaries with the other person. If you make an exception to help them, make it clear that your boundaries haven’t changed. Be sure to enforce your boundaries if they’re crossed.

Dealing with guilt trips can be a stressful and tricky process. But, doing so is essential to a healthy relationship. Knowing how they manifest themselves will make you more aware of when they do arise. And, using the techniques above will help you create a foundation of open communication and healthy boundaries. For a more in-depth look at how guilt trips manifest themselves, read the full article (6-minute read).

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