You may not know it, but you may use guilt as a tool and weapon. You may wield self-righteousness as a means to motivate others into doing what you want. Using guilt as a way to get what you want from others is a passive-aggressive tactic that never builds trust or achieves mutual respect.
Take heart, you may not know you have been doing this, and that’s ok. If you discover that you have a tendency to use guilt to get what you want from others, it isn’t too late to stop and learn new and better ways to communicate.
What does using guilt to get what you want look like?
Martyrdom syndrome- Martyrdom creates a dynamic where someone does something for someone else in order to feel put out or victimized by providing the service. A martyr uses guilt as a weapon by making others feel badly for the help or sacrifice the martyr provides. In this case, the martyr uses guilt to get their needs met instead of being direct and asking for what they want.
Passive aggression- This tactic uses guilt in sugar-coated hostility. Though unwilling or unable to be direct, people who use passive aggression oftentimes see themselves as victims and hide their feelings rather than simply ask for what they want.
Being needy- Being needy often piggybacks on other behaviors. Being needy uses guilt by creating dynamics that are inequitable. From needing constant support to downright bold manipulation, being needy sucks the energy out of relationships.
Being dishonest- It goes without saying that being dishonest and fabricating guilt to manipulate others is not a good thing. I will err on the side of caution and concede that not everyone knows they do this. Sometimes it is such an ingrained habit that they can’t help themselves.
Why would someone do this?
We imagine that the only people who act this way are mentally-fractured, angry people whom we can spot from a mile away. But this isn’t always the case. Most people who use these tactics are sorely unaware that they do. Actually, at some point for all of us, we probably can look back and find that we’ve done this at some point. What they might be aware of is they don’t have the solid, consistent, and nurturing relationships that others have. They may find themselves jealous, often at odds with others, and generally dissatisfied with life. The use of guilt is one of many issues that are off the mark.
What can be done to stop this behavior?
Awareness is the first step. Once someone recognizes these behaviors or sees themselves using guilt as a tool, they can begin to break the cycle. Sometimes simple self-awareness is all that is needed to stop using guilt as a tool and sometimes an intervention such as counseling helps.
Living with guilt is no way to live. Dishing out guilt is equally undermining. If you have the tendency to do this, you can remedy your behavior and in return develop mutually satisfying relationships. If you are in relationship with someone who is using guilt as a tool, you can spot the behavior and encourage them to find a better way to get what they want.