How to tell guilt trippers to take a hike

Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
“Hi Mum.”
“Hi darling, how are you?”
“Good. What about you?”
“Oh, I’m okay. Although your brother’s seeing that floozy again and the dog has an eye infection that’s costing me an absolute fortune to treat and your grandmother’s party preparations are taking me longer than expected.”
“I’m sorry, I had no idea you had so much going on.”
“Well, you never call me so I’m not surprised that you don’t know...”

12:42PM, Nov 21

This type of interaction between mother and daughter is known as a Triplotimus Gluiltus or a ‘guilt trip’ in non-made-up Latin. Whenever we’re confronted like this, it's usually by someone who loves us – so why do they do it?

"Guilt tripping is a way that someone seeks to get their needs met in a non-direct manner," explains psychologist Gemma Cribb. "They do so because they don’t believe they’ll get their desired outcome by actually asking for what they want. They either have low self-esteem and think they’re not important enough to ask people to meet their needs, or they think that people won’t be there for them."

Been given a one-way ticket to ride the guilt train? Cribb has this advice:

Notice your feelings of guilt and recognise the situation that caused them. Think about what unwritten rule you are breaking to cause that guilt, for example, ‘I should call my mother weekly’. Think about whether or not this rule is worth holding on to
by asking yourself...
- Does having this rule enhance my life?
- Is this rule my own or am I taking someone else’s rules as my own?
- Is this rule flexible to allow for exceptions where warranted?
- Will holding this rule result in long-term benefits for all involved?
- Then, decide whether or not to follow the rule.

"If you do decide to follow the rule, it may then be appropriate to suggest to the guilt tripper that the same outcome is likely to be achieved if they ask you to meet their needs directly instead of passively," notes Cribb.

Don’t be trippin’

If you constantly drop hints about what you want, you could be the one doling out the guilt trips. Cribb says it’s okay to be direct. "Practise sentences like, ‘I’d prefer it if…’, instead of alternative ways of getting your needs met. The other person still has the right to say no, but at least you’re not alienating them with a guilt trip."

By Jessica Martin


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