Guilt feels terrible.
And if you’re an empath like me, you’d be willing to do anything to get rid of it.
That’s why master manipulators use guilt to get what they want, and they do it best with clever mind games.
So…is someone’s making you feel guilty? You better watch out. They’re probably trying to tie strings around you so they can control you like a marionette.
Here are 12 clever mind games manipulators play to make you feel guilty.
1) Exaggerating suffering
So let’s say they’re going to a party with their friends.
But then the friend who’s supposed to pick them up can’t make it and now they’re trying to borrow your car so they can still go.
When you say “No, sorry”, they react as if they just received news that they have cancer.
Not only will they make you feel bad for ruining their night, they’ll make you feel bad for ruining their life!
They’ll say it in a very dramatic way like you’re both in a soap opera—of course, they’re the hero and you’re the cold-hearted villain.
2) Using your past “mistakes”
Let’s stick to the same example above.
When you try to defend yourself by telling them it’s your right to say “No” because you’re just not comfortable lending your car to anyone, they’ll continue playing the victim.
They’ll then remind you of the many other times you “rejected” them or “hurt” them or didn’t give them favors.
They’ll say something like “You’ve always been this way to me. Remember you didn’t let me borrow $5 when we’re kids? That’s just effin’ five bucks, bro!”
Manipulators like to guilt-trip you by recalling the other times you “slighted” them so you’ll give in.
By doing this, they want you to change your mind and try to be the “good guy” this time. After all, you’ve always been the “bad guy.” It’s your chance to redeem yourself.
3) Saying sorry when there’s nothing to be sorry about
You tell them—in the nicest way possible— that they should put the cups they use in the sink.
Or that they should probably start looking for an apartment because you can’t let them stay for another six months.
They’ll say sorry in an exaggerated manner to make you feel like you’re making a big deal out of everything—that you’re being nitpicky and selfish.
They’ll even add “I promise it won’t happen again. I don’t want to be an inconvenience to you anymore.”
It’s annoying because if you really think about it—you didn’t do anything wrong!
4) Telling a sad backstory
Manipulators like to tell you about their miserable past.
This way, you’ll subconsciously want to take care of them. After all, how cruel of you to add to their suffering!
“Oh, you’re kicking me out? You don’t even care about how I almost died in the cold when I was nine.”
“Oh, you want me to pay you the full amount? I wish you considered the fact that my family cut me off financially.”
They’d of course get more dramatic and say “How could you do this to me? You, of all people, should know better. You know about my suffering!”
5) Wallowing in self-pity
“No one really loves me.”
“I guess I’ll be miserable forever.”
“Of course, why did I expect to find true love? I know I’ll be alone forever.”
Manipulators like to pity themselves—especially in front of others. Why? So they’ll get what they want, of course.
Naturally, we don’t want people to feel bad about themselves and some of us would do anything just to make them feel better.
This is what manipulators like—to get as many favors as they can. And throwing a pity party always works!
6) Excessive praise
Receiving praise usually feels good. But it can make you feel awful when you feel like you don’t deserve it.
Master manipulators know how to praise in a way that would make people feel guilty.
They won’t exaggerate it too much, but you know it’s not completely true either. The difference is subtle but that’s what makes them master manipulators.
For example, if you’ve been setting boundaries lately. They’d nonchalantly tell you “Rachel is being selfish. Good thing you’re not like her. You’re my most selfless friend! ”
This praise can make you feel good and bad at the same time.
Good because it does make you seem better than Rachel, but bad because you know that you’re not actually the most generous person either (especially lately that you’ve been setting boundaries).
This praise isn’t genuine, of course. It’s a classic strategy. Its purpose is to manipulate you into doing more of what they’re praising you for.
7) “You’ve changed”
This phrase can make you feel guilty, especially if the person saying it is someone you’ve actually known for a long time.
It translates to “You’re kind before, but you’re a selfish b*tch now.”
It translates to “You used to be sweet, but now you’re a cold-hearted ice-queen.”
They’re saying this so you’d do whatever it takes to prove to them that no, you’re still the same old nice person!
8) “Are you happy now?”
Master manipulators know how to mess with your head.
If you ask them to do something and you know they’re totally against it, they won’t say a word.
They’d proceed to do exactly what you want them to do, but an obvious tell that they’re doing it in a passive-aggressive manner is that they’d wear a huge smile or get really quiet.
Of course, they’re doing this to guilt-trip you.
They’re doing this to prove their point—that you’re an assh*le who doesn’t care about others!
This is a clever technique to make you feel rotten.
You’d then say “sorry” for making them feel that way and you’d do whatever it takes to make them feel better. Et voila! They win.
9) Killing you with kindness
This is the “I’m still nice to you even if you’re NOT nice to me” technique—and it’s a favorite of many manipulators.
So let’s say you offended them in some way or you did something that they don’t like.
Clever manipulators won’t lash out and outright tell you how hurt they are.
Instead, they’d remain calm…and then they’d kill you with kindness. They’d smile at you, act absolutely nice, and even give you praises like they’re an angel.
By making you feel like the bad guy, they’re hoping that you’d do what they want you to do.
10) Pointing out how “lucky” you are
If they’re broke, they’d tell you how lucky you are that you have rich parents.
If they’re struggling to finish a presentation, they’d tell you how lucky you are that you have nothing else to do.
And of course, anyone can say these things without being manipulative.
But what sets a manipulator apart is that they’re actually telling you those things so they can get favors from you—like lending them a few bucks or helping them with their presentation.
11) “I thought you’re different”
This usually works for people with a savior complex.
So you do something that doesn’t make them happy.
They’ll make sure you feel guilty by letting you know that not only did you hurt them, you also DISAPPOINTED them tremendously.
It’s like what you did has totally changed how they view life and humanity as a whole!
Of course if you’re compassionate, you don’t want someone to think that way. You don’t want them to think that the world is a cruel place and everyone’s out to get them.
It also has an impact on you to know that they used to think of you as someone special—someone who’s not like everyone else. And you’d naturally want them to look at you that way again.
12) “Thanks for nothing”
This might sound like a clever remark that people should just take lightly, but it’s still an effective way to guilt-trip you.
Master manipulators are sneaky. They use jokes and sarcasm so they can just say “Huh, but it was just a joke!” or “What? You took that seriously?”
But trust me, if you have a suspicion that they’re manipulators, this phrase is loaded.
It’s meant to pressure you to do more favors for them.
Do you know someone who often makes you feel guilty?
Pay attention if they do any of the clever mind games in this list.
Everytime they do it, ask yourself “What do they really want from me?”
Then it’s up to you if you want to manipulate them back, put them back in their place, or inch a little farther to protect yourself.