Tag Archives: Manipulation

The Relationship Of Anger To Guilt

Conventional wisdom insists that in order for us to survive successfully, it is necessary for others to like us. If you believe in this myth, then you become easy prey for manipulation through guilt. In order to secure the approval of others, you may agree to do things that are not in your own best interests, but are rather what others want you to do. As a result, you feel aggravated and angry when you do what others want and guilty and angry if you do what you want to do. It is a no-win situation.

Manipulation through guilt actually gets you to beat up on yourself.  People have also said that manipulation through guilt is like being beaten with a rubber hose because it leaves no marks.  You, however, are miserable and totally demoralized.

It is easy to see that manipulative criticism is an aggressive act. Our experience of it is that we are being attacked. What is not so easy to see is that guilt inducing comments are also an aggressive attack.  It is not so subtle attempt to control our behavior.  It is a time-honored method that mothers have been using for years.

Mom:  How come you never call?

You:    Mom, I’m on the phone right now.

Mom:  Your brother John calls me every day.

You:    Gee wiz, Mom, my job requires me to travel into different time zones and it’s not always convenient to call you. I call when I can.

Mom:  If you were really concerned about me you’d call much more often. You know, I may not be here much longer with my condition and all.

You:    Mom, the phone lines go in both directions. You can call me.

Mom:  If you’re not there, I have to talk to a machine? A fine thing! Telling your

mother to talk to a machine.  That’s not right.

You:    Just leave a message. I’ll call you right back – well, as soon as I can.

Mom:  It’s not the same. A son should call his Mother.

In the work setting, the most common form of psychological attack is criticism whereas at home, and especially with relatives and family, the more common form of attack is manipulation through guilt.

Let’s take a look at one very common form of manipulation through guilt – a request that you donate money to some cause or other.

Stan: We’d like you to make a donation to theUnited Way.

You:  Thank you, but I’m not interested in making a donation at this time.

Stan:   Do you realize that you’re the only person in the department who hasn’t

made a contribution?

You:  I wasn’t aware of that and I’m still not interested in making a donation at this time.

Stan:   But this is money to help people who cannot help themselves. Don’t you

care about the poor, the handicapped and the homeless?

You:    I do care about those people but I’m not interested in making a donation.

Stan: Everyone in the department will be aware of your lack of generosity. You are going to be very embarrassed.

You:  I’m still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: Without your contribution, we’re going to be the only department that doesn’t reach 100% participation. And it will be because of you. How can you do that to us?

You:  I’m sorry about that but I am still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: You know, you are letting everyone down in the department. All of us were counting on your participation.

You:  Sorry about that. I’m still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: You don’t have to give a lot, a few dollars will do just fine. Surely you can afford to give two dollars.

You:  Let me put it to you this way, I-am-not-interested-in-making-a-donation!

Stan: Not even two dollars?

You:  No.

Stan: Will you at least think about it?

You:  In the unlikely event I change my mind, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you did not ask me again.

The design of the manipulation is to make you feel so bad that the only way to relieve your guilt is to donate the money. If you give in and donate, you will be furious (enraged) at yourself.

The strategy for dealing with guilt inducing, manipulative criticism is to stick to your guns, repeating over and over what it is you want or don’t want to do.  Stand your ground.  Avoid explanation and justification. Not only does that strategy leave you sounding weak, it provides the critic with much too much information with which to continue the manipulation.

On Manipulative Criticism

Last week, you learned how to handle constructive or valid criticism. That form of criticism is supposed to help you do something better.  In other words, it has an improvement goal.  Manipulative criticism has a goal of hitting your hot buttons and making you react negatively.  Manipulative criticism most often makes you so angry you would like to smack the critic.  At other times manipulative criticism leaves you feeling guilty, depressed and hopeless.  Here are a few examples.

“If you really loved your mother, you’d call more often.”

“Why must you always wear your hair that way?”

“You never take the time to do things right.”

“Well, that certainly isn’t the way I’d handle the situation.”

The key to recognizing you have been manipulatively criticized is to get in touch with your gut.  If your reaction to the critic’s words is furious anger, you have just been manipulatively criticized.  You have several interesting choices for dealing with this type of verbal attack.

●You can make a joke.

Critic:  How can you be so stupid?

You:    I really work hard at it.

●You can parry the criticism and let it just float away.

Critic:  You throw your money around like a drunken sailor.

You:    Perhaps you’re right.

●You can take the other person on by responding defensively.

Critic:  That was one dumb thing you did yesterday.

You:    What’s wrong with what I did?

This last choice is never recommended because it puts you on the defensive and encourages the critic to continue their attack.  That makes you the victim.
There are a number of common forms of manipulative criticism.  Here are examples of some and a strategy for responding to each type.

● Join two unrelated items together in the form of a criticism.

Critic:  If you truly enjoyed the evening, you’d sleep with me.

You:    I truly enjoyed our time together and I will not sleep with you.

You respond to each item separately using and (not but) as the connecting word.

●Blow  things out of proportion.

Critic:  You were three hours late last night.

You:    I was three hours late?

Critic:  Well, it was at least twenty minutes.

You:    Oh, I see.

You repeat what the critic has said as a question and when they respond with a more truthful, unexaggerated response, you say, I see.

●It is wrong to be different from other people.

Critic:  What would happen if everyone refused to donate?

You:    I don’t know what would happen but I refuse to donate.

You say, I don’t know and repeat your intention.

●It is not right for you to change your mind.

Critic:  How come you never said anything about this before?

You:    Well, I’m saying something about it now.

Today is a new day; it requires new decisions.

●Criticism through the generation of guilt feelings to control your behavior,

Critic:  You don’t need to help; with my condition I may not be

around much longer anyway.

You:    Where are you going, mother?

Making a joke is the best way to respond to an obvious guilt trip comment.