Skip to content

Guilt Trip Awareness: Recognizing, Understanding & Handling Manipulation

A guilt trip is a manipulative technique that one person uses to control another. It can be used in many different ways and for various reasons, though the most common use of a guilt trip is punishment for not meeting expectations. The main goal of this type of manipulation is to make the other person feel bad about themselves, so they will do what you want them to do. A guilt trip may also be used by someone who feels guilty about their actions and wants forgiveness from the person they hurt.

Shame on you, guilt trip woman. female manager in painful feeling of humiliation, distress, wrong foolish behavior, loss of respect, dishonor pointed by fingers.

What is the Meaning of Guilt Trip?

A guilt trip is when one person tries to make the other feel bad about committing an act by putting them down, insulting their dignity or status, or telling them that they know something terrible about them.

The phrase “guilt trip” is used in all its meanings—that is, it can be used pejoratively (as an insult) and non-pejoratively (to describe what someone else did). It typically refers to the feeling of guilt that results from this behavior after the target has performed a specific action.

The term “guilt tripping” was first used in 1965 and had its roots in psychology. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it appeared in an academic publication called Psychiatric Quarterly published in 1965.

How Do I Recognize a Guilt Trip?

Guilt trips are often very hard to recognize because we don’t traditionally think about ourselves as being manipulated or controlled by others – we’re more likely to see it happening in movies than in our real lives. However, it’s essential to recognize a guilt trip when you see one because if you don’t realize what’s going on and why the other person is saying or doing these things, they’re likely to have an even more significant effect.

Put, you’re being guilted if the significant point of argument is not about your guilt for doing something wrong but rather a wave of anger that you did not do precisely what was expected of you – whether or not that expectation is reasonable. What’s going on here? The answer lies in an interesting aspect of human behavior called “social loafing” – people tend to expend less effort on a group task than if they are working alone. It means it isn’t so much your fault as the other person’s fault.

If you look at the first definition of guilt, it says that if you feel guilty about something, then other people will use this feeling to control your behavior. It means that if they know how to work your emotions, they can control whether or not you do what was expected of you (probably whether you helped them out at all), and they will be angry if you don’t do exactly what they want. This is what I mean by it being their fault, not yours.

What happens here is the person guilt-trips you because this is a surefire way to ensure that you behave how they want, and also such people genuinely believe that this is the only way to get what they want, that they want to get what they want, and that you need to be guilted into helping them.

How to Understand Guilt Trips?

Guilt trips are often used as punishment for not meeting someone else’s expectations, whether of a parent/caregiver or significant other. Suppose we do something that makes them feel bad about themselves (forgetting their birthday). Hence, they stop feeling bad about themselves. In that case, our actions can come across as being done out of spite rather than genuine carelessness, which causes the individual who feels hurt by this behavior to become more manipulative to get us back under control. This type of guilt trip is not only common but also relatively easy to recognize.

How to Handle Guilt Trip Manipulations?

If you understand what’s going on and why they’re saying or doing these things, it becomes easier for you to avoid falling into the guilt trap to get out of feeling bad about yourself. You can either choose to apologize (even if your actions weren’t intentional) and promise that this will never happen again – even if it wasn’t a big deal in the first place – or let them know how their words make you feel and ask them politely not use guilt trips with you anymore because they don’t work!

What should you do if someone tells you that you’re wrong or that they would be better off without you? First, try to figure out why that person is saying those terrible things about you. If it’s because of something you did, apologize, learn from the mistake and never do it again! If it’s because of something you didn’t do, remind them of all the good things you do for them, or tell them how much better off they would be without your help.

Did that help? If you have a problem with someone, it’s always good to try and figure out why they’re angry. It could be because of something you did or didn’t do! Think about what they might have been going through when they said those mean things about you so you can figure out how to fix the problem. You could do something nice for them, or tell them about all the ways you help them.

Even though it may feel bad when you’re getting told off, don’t worry! You won’t always be getting in trouble, and if someone is mean to you, they might not be a perfect friend anyway. Don’t worry about figuring out why someone is angry with you – try to do your best in the future!

What are Examples of Guilt Trips?

Forcing you to do what they want – the primary function of guilt-tripping is to make sure that you feel compelled to help someone or agree with something and facilitate your behavior in the way they want.

Blaming you for whatever it is that’s happened – if something terrible has happened, then it’s very likely their fault and not yours, but guilt-tripping is a very convenient way to make you feel responsible when in reality, you are not. An example of this would be arguing with someone about whether or not they were rude to you even though it was their fault that they were rude because you made them angry by doing something that suggested their authority was being undermined.

Blaming someone else when things go wrong is often used to excuse why things went wrong, hence why people will try to avoid taking responsibility for what happens. This avoids having to admit any mistakes but also keeps the responsibility of the situation away from you.

Feeling sorry for yourself – it’s often easier to guilt-trip someone else into feeling sorry for us than it is to feel sorry for ourselves and fix whatever went wrong.

If someone feels guilty, they are less likely to argue back or want to confront the truth about what happened because if they do, that will make them feel even worse. Also, there is a likelihood that this person does not see any problems with themselves in the long term but still wants people to think that there are some things they need assistance on, hence why they want other people to be guilted into feeling sorry for them immediately.

Expecting help when they’d done anything wrong – there is nothing that makes someone more likely to be guilted into assisting in them feeling guilty when they’ve done nothing wrong. An example would be someone calling the police after their car broke down because “they feel bad” when in reality, they want someone else to believe this is the case so that they can get assistance with something when it would otherwise be obvious they are just looking for attention or making excuses.

Feeling like you’re responsible for whatever went wrong (the fallacy of responsibility) – people use guilt-tripping not only because it is an effective way to get what they want but also because if you feel responsible, they don’t have to take responsibility themselves. For example, if my friend is running late, I might blame them for this and say that they should have left earlier.

If I am the one who feels guilty, then doing this makes it less likely that I will see my own mistakes or fault (because if I do, then this would make me feel even guiltier). Guilt-tripping someone else gives you a way of avoiding taking responsibility yourself, and hence why some people might do it: to avoid responsibility. Commitment requires you to take action and face the consequences, and many people don’t want to deal with these things because regretting your behavior can be painful.


Guilt trips are a form of emotion. If they are still angry, remember that some problems are too big to fix – especially if someone is trying to use those problems as an excuse to be mean!

As we have seen, guilt is the most common emotion to exploit for this purpose. To avoid being taken advantage of by someone who is trying to manipulate you with a guilt trip, it’s important to recognize when one has been pulled on you and how best to react afterward.

If your boss or significant other tries using a guilt trip on you, try asking them what they want from you so that together you can come up with an agreement about their expectations rather than reacting out-of-hand without thinking things through first.

Viable Outreach | Activism for the 99%