Guilt trips damage relationships and should never work.
You may have noticed that the NLCS just ended, and the World Series is set to begin. As an analyst for FOX Sports, this is perhaps my busiest time of the year. I’m not only in studio for a large part of the day, but I spend additional hours buried in a computer prepping to make sure I’m ready to talk numbers. It is a critical time for me, and I wish to excel.
The other day, I was knee deep in that prep when I received a message from a friend.
“You never have time for me anymore, hope you’re doing well.”
Adding in those well wishes at the end of the text was clever. I find these guilt trips unattractive and uncomfortable. In this case, my immediate feeling was one of some resentment. I had a hard time believing that this person cared about my current state. From globalpost.com:
Guilt trips of both kinds heavily exaggerate the situation and present a one-sided view rife with blame and simplistic judgment. Guilt trips may commonly rely on “always” and “never” statements with accusations of intentional cruelty or a total lack of caring on your part.
At their heart, guilt trips are simply emotional manipulation. They play on our existing emotions and demand we alter our behavior. From manipulative-people.com:
Skilled manipulators know the vulnerabilities of their opponents. If vanity is someone’s weakness, a seduction tactic might be the best manipulation tactic. If over-conscientiousness is their weakness, perhaps guilt-tripping would be the most effective way to gain the upper hand.
My friend may believe that by pointing out my lack of availability, I’ll magically have moments to devote to them. Even were I not under such time pressures, the guilt trip leaves me less likely to desire their company, despite my love for my friend. All I feel is the negative tones they have struck with me, their lack of patience and acceptance. This is the complete inverse of their intended result.
I always respond to these situations with firm kindness. I make no excuses, no justifications and do no explaining.
“Thanks, hope you’re well too.”
There is nothing to be gained in arguing or defending my position. However, it is important to keep in mind where our guilt tripping friends may be coming from. From academia.edu:
Individuals lack awareness into whether they consciously chose to guilt trip. The majority of participants did not think their actions were wrong or were willing to take accountability for the guilt trip. A guilt trip may mark a discrepancy between two varying internal standards. Individuals may feel the aversive feeling of being guilt tripped is justified in helping shape the way people should treat each other.
I lose nothing by extending the benefit of the doubt. They may not be consciously aware of their actions, and there is no downside to responding with warmth. I protect myself by identifying manipulation, but always reply with politeness. Keeping my side of the street clean in terms of my behavior produces a sense of pride.
Now, if they escalate the conversation, I may have to change my number.
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