Guilt trips are brutal.
Especially if you have a sensitive heart that genuinely cares for others.
Everyone hates to be wrong, and we really dislike feeling that we have failed or let someone down. Someone at work or in our family that is set on getting their way can use these things against us by making us feel guilty (even when we've done nothing wrong). If you have a boss, co-worker, friend, or family member that loves to send you on a guilt trip, there are 2 important things to remember, that will allow you to battle back and retain your sanity: ask and avoid.
1)Ask yourself this question: Have I done something that is morally wrong?
Guilt trips owe their power to false guilt. False guilt is the feeling of guilt that comes to us even when we haven’t done anything morally wrong. So, even though you may feel guilty, if you haven’t done anything morally wrong, you are not guilty. Many of us have come to believe, however, that it is our job to make everyone happy, and we feel guilty when we can’t do it. We don’t tend to say this out loud, but we believe it nonetheless. Add this to our tendency to blame ourselves first when things go wrong, and you have the recipe for a crushing guilt trip. But remember this…
It's not your job to keep the people you love or work with happy.
Not only that, it’s impossible. So let it go! When feelings of guilt arise after a talk with someone, stop and ask yourself, “Have I done anything morally wrong?” If the answer is “no”, then remind yourself that these feelings of guilt are just feelings and are not actually true. Before long those feelings will fade away, as feelings often do. As an example: it’s morally wrong to steal money from your co-worker when they are out of the office, it’s not morally wrong to say no when they ask if you can work their shift for them next Saturday.
2)Avoid long, drawn-out conversations with the guilters in your life.
People who are trying to guilt you into doing something for them love to have long conversations with you about how hard their life is, and how much they need you to come to their rescue. The longer the conversation, the more chance they have to find a way to flood you with guilt. The more they can get you to talk, the better able they are to trip you up! Remember this…
When your realize that someone is not accepting your polite refusal, but is continuing to push, the conversation has stopped being relational and started being manipulative.
The best way I have found to deal with this sort of manipulation is to become a good politician (is that an oxymoron?). Good politicians are not drawn into conversations they don't want to have. They do this by having set talking points that they repeat often during their campaign that highlights their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. It doesn’t matter what you ask, they stick to the talking points. This tactic also works when dealing with the people in your life that try to guilt you into submission. Here is an example of what one such conversation might look like, and how you can handle it:
Your supervisor: Can you please stay later today and pick up the extra work that needs to be completed, no one else is able to, and I’m not feeling well. (you know that she probably hasn’t asked anyone else…)
You: I actually worked over some last week, but I can’t today.
Supervisor: I only ask you because I know that you are such a good worker and care so much about our clients.
You: Thank you, I really do take my job seriously, but I can’t work over today.
Supervisor: Well, I know that you wouldn’t want your co-workers to think that you aren’t carrying your weight….
You: I can’t do it today, but I hope you are able to find someone to pick up the extra hours.
Supervisor: Well, I guess I’ll just have to do it myself, maybe my migraine won’t get much worse…..
You: Ok, I hope the rest of your afternoon goes well.
Stick to your message. Keep the conversation polite, but short and simple. Don’t get drawn into justifying yourself or talking about what other workers might be thinking or doing. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t help out and work over from time to time, it just means that you need to avoid making decisions because you feel guilty. Practice these two techniques and you will avoid the dreaded guilt trip and will be able to make decisions free of manipulation.