9 blame-shifting tactics manipulators use to make you feel guilty

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Have you ever found yourself bearing the brunt of someone else’s mistakes, feeling inexplicably guilty for their wrongdoings?

Or perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you’ve been made the scapegoat for issues you had no hand in creating?

From our friendships to our romantic relationships, and even in our professional lives, many of us have unwittingly been the victims of manipulative blame-shifting tactics.

I know exactly how this feels. I’ve been on the receiving end of these tactics more than once.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Let’s delve into this by examining 9 blame-shifting tactics that manipulators commonly use to make you feel guilty.

1) They twist the narrative to suit their agenda

A common tactic manipulators use to shift blame is by twisting the narrative to suit their own agenda. This often involves distorting facts, omitting key details, or even outright lying about the situation.

This cunning method of blame shifting can be challenging to spot, primarily because it’s done so subtly. It can lead us down a path where we start questioning our own memory of events, causing us to second-guess ourselves.

The irony here is that while we are left feeling guilty for something we didn’t do, the manipulator walks away unscathed, preserving their image of innocence.

Recognizing this tactic involves becoming aware of discrepancies in their version of events and trusting your memory and perception.

2) They make you the villain in their story

One of the more insidious blame-shifting tactics I’ve personally experienced involves being painted as the villain in the manipulator’s story. This tactic often involves playing the victim and manipulating emotions to gain sympathy, while simultaneously placing blame on us.

I recall a time when a former colleague of mine was constantly missing deadlines.

Instead of taking responsibility for their poor time management, they spun a tale of how I was overloading them with work and setting unrealistic expectations. They painted themselves as the overwhelmed victim and me as the demanding villain.

This put me in a position where I felt guilty for something that was not my fault. It took some time for me to recognize this tactic and understand that it was a method of blame-shifting, not a reflection of my management style.

3) They use gaslighting to distort your reality

Gaslighting is a particularly damaging blame-shifting tactic I’ve encountered.

This psychological manipulation tactic involves making you question your sanity by denying or distorting the truth, till you start doubting your own perceptions and memories.

I’ll never forget the time when a close friend of mine borrowed a significant sum of money from me and then denied it ever happened. They made me feel as if I was losing my mind, suggesting that I might be forgetful or even outright lying.

This guilt-tripping and reality distortion left me feeling guilty for even bringing up the issue. It was a challenging situation, one that took me a while to fully understand and navigate.

Overcoming gaslighting involves trusting your own memory and perceptions, and seeking support from others who can validate your experiences. It’s about recognizing that a manipulator’s denial of facts doesn’t change the truth.

4) They deflect blame by pointing out your flaws

Another common blame-shifting tactic manipulators use is deflection.

Instead of accepting responsibility for their actions, they divert the conversation by pointing out your flaws or mistakes.

For instance, if you confront them about an issue, they might respond with something like, “Well, what about that time when you…?”

This diverts the focus from their wrongdoing and puts you on the defensive, often leading to feelings of guilt for supposedly unrelated issues.

It’s important to understand that while nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes, bringing up past errors or flaws as a response to current criticism is a clear sign of deflection and blame-shifting.

5) They use guilt trips as emotional blackmail

Guilt trips are a classic tool in the manipulator’s arsenal. They exploit your kindness, insecurities or sense of responsibility to make you feel guilty for not complying with their demands.

For example, they might say something like, “If you really cared about me, you would do this for me.” Despite your better judgment, you might find yourself succumbing to their demands just to alleviate this imposed guilt.

And here’s an intriguing aspect of guilt trips: individuals who are empathetic and conscientious are more susceptible to them.

This is because these individuals have a heightened sense of moral duty and responsibility towards others, making them prime targets for such emotional manipulation.

6) They project their faults onto you

Projection is a blame-shifting tactic where the manipulator accuses you of the very behavior or feelings they themselves are guilty of.

It’s like looking in a mirror, except the reflection is their faults being reflected back onto you.

I remember being in a relationship with someone who was constantly insecure and jealous. But instead of acknowledging these feelings, they would accuse me of being the jealous one.

This left me feeling confused and guilty, questioning my own emotions and actions when in reality, I was being subjected to their projections.

7) They employ the silent treatment as a form of punishment

The silent treatment, a form of emotional withholding, is a manipulative tactic that can make you feel guilty for perceived wrongs.

By ignoring you or refusing to communicate, the manipulator creates an unsettling atmosphere of disapproval, implicitly blaming you for their silence.

This tactic can be incredibly damaging as it plays on our innate human need for social connection and communication. It leaves us feeling anxious, guilty, and desperate to rectify the situation, often leading us to accept blame just to restore normalcy.

8) They give you conditional love

This is a painful one, and it’s used by manipulators who are close to us – family, partners, close friends. They make you feel guilty by suggesting their love or approval is conditional on your behavior.

They might say things like, “If you loved me, you’d do this for me,” or “I can’t believe you’re behaving this way. Is this how you show your love?”

This kind of emotional manipulation can make you feel guilty and unworthy of their love unless you comply with their demands. This tactic can be deeply damaging because it plays on our most basic human need – the need to be loved and accepted.

Remember, real love is not conditional.

You are worthy of love and respect just as you are. Don’t let anyone use your desire for their love and approval to manipulate you and make you feel guilty.

9) They play on your fears

This is perhaps the most damaging tactic of all – playing on your fears.

Manipulators have an uncanny ability to identify what scares you the most and use it to their advantage. They might threaten abandonment, expose your insecurities, or even exploit your deepest fears, all to make you feel guilty and keep you under their control.

It’s important to recognize this for what it is: a manipulation tactic. It has nothing to do with your worth or capabilities. Don’t let anyone use your fears to make you feel guilty or control you.

The final thought

If these blame-shifting tactics felt all too familiar, you may have been entangled with a manipulator. It’s a challenging realization but it’s also a critical first step towards reclaiming your peace and autonomy.

Awareness is your strongest weapon. Understanding these tactics can help you spot them when they occur, allowing you to react differently and prevent guilt imposition.

Reflect on your interactions, past and present.

Do you see patterns of manipulation? Were there instances where you felt guilt that was undeserved?

Everyone makes mistakes and it’s natural to feel guilty when we are at fault.

But it’s crucial to differentiate between genuine guilt and the guilt that’s imposed through manipulative tactics.

It won’t be an easy journey. It takes time to unlearn patterns and build resilience against manipulation. But each step you take empowers you, reinforcing your right to live free from undue guilt.

So, be gentle with yourself during this process. Change takes time.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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