How To Deal With Emotional Manipulators Who Make You Feel Guilty | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Guilt Trips How To Deal With Emotional Manipulators Who Make You Feel Guilty | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | Guilt Trips

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How To Deal With Emotional Manipulators Who Make You Feel Guilty

“Self-centered leaders manipulate when they move people for personal benefit. Mature leaders motivate by moving people for mutual benefit.” 

John C. Maxwell, (Author, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership)

“Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change direction–only enough to make you useless.”

Daniel Naveri, (Author, Another Faust)

“Don’t take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, to the next county, to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.”

George Carlin (Comedian and Actor)


I lost a close friend a few years ago.

I lost him because I had to cut him out of my life.

It wasn’t easy.

In fact, it was one of the hardest things I had to do.

We had a lot of similarities and I truly enjoyed his friendship.

He’d bust my balls and make me laugh constantly.

He was creative and successful.

He was one of the few people I learned from.

But he also made me feel weak.

He made me feel insecure.

Look—I know other people can’t “make” you feel insecure.

But I felt like crap around him a lot.

I valued his opinion because he was a good friend.

So when I achieved a goal or had an idea, I would share it with him.

This was always a mistake.

Instead of empowering me, this guy would tell me all the reasons I would fail.

He’d tell me it was a stupid idea and that I shouldn’t pursue it.

He’d remind me of all the times I failed in the past.

Eventually, I realized my friend didn’t really consider me as his friend.

He was a fake friend.

Someone who just kept me around – was just friendly enough with me – to keep tabs on me.

Finally, I cut him out of my life for good.

When I did this, the trajectory of my entire life changed.

It sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

Once I was free, and once I started eliminating other manipulative people from my life, opportunities opened up everywhere.

I published my first book, built my first online business, and successfully executed a dozen other ideas that I never would have started with these manipulative people still in my life.

emotional manipulative people | Dr. Isaiah Hankel | how to make someone feel guilty

How Manipulative People Sneak Into Your Life

Everyone thinks that manipulators are easy to spot.

Until they get manipulated.

Or guilted into doing something.

How does this happen?

Look—manipulative people don’t blast into your life announcing themselves with a theme song.

They sneak in.

Scientific American published a series of papers showing that manipulators often gain entry into our lives through empathy.

They fake empathy and emotional intelligence as a cover-up for their true motives.

Someone who is emotionally manipulative will often expose themselves through “guilt mongering.”

A study from Carleton University investigated guilt mongering as an unhealthy frontline relationship maneuver that manipulators frequently use.

Manipulators sneak in, figure you out, and use what they know against you for their gain.

If you want to be happy and successful in life, you need to spot manipulators early.

You need to confront them directly and remove them from your life quickly.

Here are 3 points on how to handle manipulative people…

1. Have a “zero tolerance” policy for manipulation.

Keeping manipulative people around is ALWAYS a risk.

You might think that sometimes, this risk is worth it.

Maybe the manipulator has some endearing qualities.

Maybe he or she is fun to be around.

Maybe you think you’re immune to manipulation altogether.

Don’t fall into this trap.

Manipulative people will always cause some part of your life to unravel.

The problem is, manipulative people are not always obvious.

Instead, they often slither into your life as just the opposite.

They sneak in as a “soft sell” with ulterior motives, hiding their desire to gain control or power over you for their own benefit.

They often show up as people really interested in your life.

But manipulative people do not have your best interests at heart.

In fact, they aren’t thinking of you at all – other than how you can meet their needs and keep them happy.

Once they have what they need, they’ll want more.

Your relationship with them will always be unbalanced, both in power and effort.

You’ll waste emotional energy second-guessing yourself and feeling insecure.

You’ll resent trying to please them and feel weak if you change your behavior to make them happy.

If you feel these things in your relationships, you’ve already spotted the early signs of manipulation.

2. Refuse to let “guilt mongers” gain power over you.

If you don’t give in – if you try and set boundaries – they lay on the guilt trip.

One of the easiest ways to spot them is by paying attention to who makes you feel guilty.

Who makes you feel bad about yourself?

Who makes you feel like you’re never quite up to par?

Who takes what they have learned about you and uses it against you?

These are the people you need to eliminate from your life.

Have the guts to get rid of them as soon as you spot them.

Don’t try to change them.

Don’t try to rationalize their behavior.

Don’t indulge in the feeling of guilt they are trying to stir in you.

Of course, other people are not responsible for your feelings.

No one can make you feel guilty without your own permission.

People who psychologically manipulate others will always make sure you don’t appear better than them.

They will cut you down, attack your confidence, and work to create insecurity in you.

This makes them feel better.

Manipulators use their insecurity as justification for making others feel bad about themselves.

This is their problem.

Their deficiency.

They drain valuable time and energy and have no place in your life.

Don’t feel bad for these people.

Don’t waste your time trying to help them or show them they’re wrong.

They like the way they are – they like the attention and negative power it gives them.

Instead, simply eliminate these people from your life forever – no explanation required.

3. Use the “confront and cut” technique to eliminate manipulators.

The fastest and most effective way to tell if someone is a manipulator is by turning the tables on them.

For example, if someone close to you subtly reprimands you for being too confident, too successful, too pretty, too rich, too oblivious to other people’s feelings, or too whatever—throw it back on them.

Do not play the game. Be direct.

Ask them why they’re trying to make you feel guilty.

Ask them why they’re trying to make you feel obligated.

Ask them what they think you owe them.

These questions are difficult to ask, but they will quickly clarify whether or not someone is trying to manipulate you.

Direct questions like these throw manipulative people off-balance.

The best they can hope to do is label you as overly sensitive.

That’s when you know they’re using you to get something.

That’s when you know they’re trying to guilt you into doing something for their gain.

Once you identify someone as manipulative, do NOT give them a free pass.

Remove them from your life and replace them with someone who doesn’t try to use your own guilt against you.

Look—you get what you think you deserve, so set a higher standard for yourself.

Stop being gullible and start standing up for yourself.

Refuse to entertain unbalanced relationships of any kind.

Live your life according to your values and stop trying to please everyone.

Manipulative people are lurking everywhere. They prey on open, generous, and naive people to get what they want on their terms, with as little investment and effort as possible. Manipulative people find ways to take without giving. One of the ways they do this is to make you feel guilty. Cutting you down, keeping you beneath them, and laying on guilt when you fail to offer up what they want in full. You can spot them by guilt followed by blame under an umbrella of entitlement. It’s your fault, never theirs. They never take responsibility for their actions and are never reciprocal in the relationship. Once you spot them, get rid of them. No second chances. No make-up parties. One strike, you’re out.

To learn more about dealing with manipulators and overcoming feelings of guilt, and to get instant access to exclusive training videos, case studies, insider documents, and my private online network, get on the Escape Plan wait list.


You Comment, Isaiah Responds

  • Andrea Robinson

    That’s a very powerful story about how your life really improved after you cut loose your manipulative friend. I think that a “friend” like that gives themselves away because they aren’t reciprocal. I get annoyed with my friends sometimes, and they get annoyed with me, but we don’t try to talk each other out of following our dreams, and everybody is constantly reciprocating. That’s what friends are for, and I was lucky/smart enough to drop some friends along the way who were just not that way.

  • Monica and Willy Hill

    Willy and I had some friends like that a while back. We had to dump them, but this didn’t become obvious for several years. At first it was just a need to borrow the rake or something silly like that. But over the years, it got to be more and more ridiculous. The worst part of it was the really long conversations these people wanted to have, even if we had things we had to do and we let them know that we didn’t have time right then to socialize. They did seem really sweet and on our wavelength at first. We didn’t realize what was happening until it was way too late. We can replace our belongings, but we’ll never get the time back.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Good for you for dumping the manipulators, Monica. Time bandits are the worst, they just sneak right in there, don’t they? What it boils down to is that they don’t respect your wishes.

  • Francie Eschenower

    I love the test you’re suggesting – put it back on them and see how they react. I always use that other test, which is asking myself how I feel around the people. I consider myself to be in complete responsibility for my feelings, so if I feel bad around people and a quick conversation doesn’t clear it up, they’re out. By the way, if you try to have that quick conversation to clear the air and it gets worse, then you’ve got a definite manipulator on your hands!

  • Sissy MacDougall

    This is really profound, and I know people who needed to take years to figure it out. Sometimes they’re married to the person, and sometimes they’re just friends. Unfortunately, telling the victim that they’re with a manipulative person normally backfires. I find that manipulators are usually experts at making people believe lies, even if the contradictions are so obvious. I think it’s that smooth self-confidence that throws people off. They find it refreshing, when it’s actually just a facade.

  • Beverly Green

    Well, I never did have too much of a tolerance for people who try to guilt bomb me. I never thought about turning the tables on them, though. I don’t want to be rude, but it does seem like a pretty good way of cutting to the chase and finding out what their motivations are.

  • Julian Holst

    I wish I’d known this a few years ago! It felt like a choice between decking them and just walking away – I chose to walk away. But it would have felt good to be able to confront them and let them know that I was on to them.

  • Theo

    I definitely don’t waste my time trying to help a manipulator, but I can see where girls try to help their ridiculous, lowlife boyfriends see the light. You try to tell them, but they don’t get it. It’s a shame when you see some guy mess them around like that.

  • Willow Sampson

    Wow, this is great. I think I’m going to join a kick-boxing class! LOL! But in the meantime, this will help too. 🙂

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      Wow, kick-boxing? Nice!

  • Charisse Cappello

    It’s funny. I do have some friends that are a little manipulative when it comes to time, but I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose. They tend to take up a lot of my time, but it’s probably just that I haven’t set boundaries or I’m not as plain as I need to be when it’s time to stop socializing and take care of the stuff I want to take care of. On the other hand, there was another person in my life a long time ago who used to keep me hanging on for hours. There was just no polite way to say goodbye to this person. Over time, I just disciplined myself to stop initiating contact, and eventually the person just disappeared from my life.

    • Dr. Isaiah Hankel

      You are right, they don’t necessarily do it on purpose, Charisse.

      But you can still call them out! I like that you took it upon yourself to set boundaries and make them clear to others.

  • Harvey Delano

    It’s very interesting that you say manipulators show up seeming like they have sincere interest in your life, and then use everything you might say or reveal against you to make you feel weak or stupid. I actually knew someone like that once. The first time she turned something against me, I was amazed. I had no idea she was like that. Over time, I learned to avoid her like the plague.

  • Aegis Ampoules

    I am shocked after reading facts that how my wife is manipulating me! She is not behaving rationally and unable to reciprocate. She block me from her Facebook account. She always thread me that she want divorce but same time don’t want to leave me. She check from time to time whether I still have same feeling for her. I am suffering from last 2 years but live her so much so ready to bear all pain to live life with her. She has lot of positive points. She know how to make me happy as well as unhappy too. Since last 6 months she start again to speak to me and talking about living happily for rest of life with me but suddenly she start to harrash me by not taking my calls or replying my text. She blame me that I am not serious about relationship. She said she don’t want to stay with me at my workplace but want to stay in nearly Metropolitan city where is make me difficult to spare my time with her. She is now telling me that she don’t see any future with me. It’s give me lot of pain. It’s impact on my work and health. I can’t even think about living without her. After reading your article I found lot of similarities if emotional manipulator. Is there any way to leave her habit and live happily together as husband and wife? Please help.

    • Sean Carlson

      You are dealing with a narcissist. Get out now.

    • Joseph Romano

      UUuummmmmmmm……..your wife has absolutely no love for you at all. Put it this way, she has as much love for you, as you have confidence and self-esteem. You REALLY need to work on your own issues of self worth, so you do not allow people to disrespect you in a relationship. This woman clearly has absolutely no respect for you as a man.

  • Ousama Abdu

    Man, this was dead on!
    Thank you for posting a well written, no nonsense article.

  • Elaine

    I have spent the last 11 years raising 3 kids (not my own) and having 2 of my own with the most manipulative, emotionally abusive man on the planet. It has taken me almost 2 years of therapy to get the nerve to just talk to a lawyer about divorce. I am so mad at myself for how weak minded I am and have been. I am embarrassed. My husband is so good at manipulation he has my parents and siblings believing he has changed and is this wonderful man, to the point I worry that after I tell them today that I filed for divorce they may take his side and not mine. I honestly do not think anyone else can see the type of person he is. He manipulates me at every turn. He tells me I am a bad mother for taking my children away from their father if I file for divorce. I raided his 3 children from his previous divorce from the time I was 22 years old until now. But he still has his claws in me…still has his ways of making me feel guilty, or insecure, or not good enough.

    • Matteo Vukoja

      I don’t know if this well help anything at all, but hang in there. Just keep reminding yourself that everything that comes out of his mouth is just a load of bullshit.

  • Malik Rumi

    This is all very nice, but you say nothing about manipulators who are also close blood relatives: parents, siblings, children. Does that make your advice any different?

    • Joseph Romano

      Absolutely not! A negative influence in your life is a negative influence. PERIOD. You are not here to live for someone else. Although even more difficult to not take personally, if you focus on the steps of how to insulate yourself from guilt, and identify their tactics, it will become easier to deal with them. As relatives, cutting them out of your life entirely may not be possible, but, you can learn to limit their role in your life. If you understand something, it usually is much easier to deal with – so, do your best to educate yourself about these people, their tactics, and the fact that their behavior is a reflection of their negative personality, not yours.
      The simple criteria that seems to work for most people is “Is my life better, or worse, with this person in it?” You can’t choose your relatives, and you certainly can’t choose their personality. What you can do, is teach them how to treat you, and you do that by accepting, or rejecting, their negative behavior.
      To put it simply – they engage in this behavior with you for one, simple reason – IT WORKS. Like the article says, build up your self-esteem and confidence. These are the two keys that make their tactics work. I can tell you from personal experience, and as a person who was easily guilted, that if it stops working for them, they will stop doing it to you.

  • Gforce23

    What if the person that pulls these kinds of shenanigans on you from time to time is your husband…that you have a child with., and for various reasons are financially dependent on. What then???

    • Joseph Romano

      Decide if you want your child raised in that environment, and what it will be like when the child grows up, repeating the lessons he/she has been taught, and treats you the same way. You’re in a tough situation, but, as long as you’re dependent on him, you’ll be unhappy.

  • Robin M Foster

    I am the victim of guilt trippers. I’ve been held hostage in the home by them. I’ve vomited sleeping pills attempting to end my own life to be free of their psychological abuse. I’ve been detained in academies. I’ve been pinned to the ground for hours and hours and hours and not allowed to make a sound. I’ve been forced into religion and compliance. I’ve been unallowed to make eye contact, speak, have had to LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and obey them. I’ve had my home invaded by them and have had to serve abusive men who will not leave who feel they “have the right”. I’ve had to shower in a swimsuit invaded by a sex offender who needs to look at me taught to shower with god. I’ve been hoarded in a room screamed at about abortion all day and night with nothing better to do than think about where I can find more wine and sleeping pills. I don’t like guilt trippers. I avoid Catholic community if at all possible fearing for my own safety and well being. I avoid guilt tripping types. They surround, bleed you like dracula until you don’t even know who you are anymore. I’m trying to get better at keeping dracula out of my life.

  • Shyla Newby

    My fiancee told me that he did not really want to go somewhere and I told him that it is his decision to go or not and he told me that I am using that as a manipulation tactic to make him feel guilty could I get some advice please

    • Joseph Romano

      Yep – dump him.

  • Ashley

    Hey, so my friend told me yesterday that I had been guilt tripping him into giving me things for awhile. I wasn’t even aware that I’d been doing it, but I feel awful after becoming aware of it. I never meant any ill-intent with the things I said to him and I am trying my best to make it right because what I have been doing is unfair and wrong. I came on your website to learn more about people who do this and I was wondering, what kind of advice you have for those type of people who want to change?

  • Max

    I feel bad when on a guilt trip too, I just avoid the person and change my morals to a more egocentric one no longer caring.

  • Max

    Hello it’s me again, asking the questions is only hard in the sense that it’s difficult to get an answer, it’s not painful to ask the questions, and as equally painful it is I’m not going to Mum’s house again, I asked my brother David what he thinks I owe him, he said I owe Mum respect, so there you go, it’s a simple answer. I think they should be left alone for 5 years if they make me feel bad, they would even use karate on me with a light blow, so by the looks of my genius, which is my natural talent, the situation’s getting worse and worse, I had bad luck for three days and I’m not happy, therefore I’ll even eliminate a worker from my life, my Mum, my two brothers and Dad from my life, this I find to be a hard decision, but Buddha said “all unhappiness is caused by attachment”, therefore I’ll let go of my family, and get rid of them. 🙁

  • Jesus Nervous

    If they family bloodline talk to them directly, if they are friends or coworkers give them cold shoulder and they will know it.

  • Joseph Romano

    I have always explained guilt like this: There is nothing positive about guilt. It makes you feel bad, PERIOD. When someone makes you feel guilty, they are intentionally making you feel bad so that they will feel better. Which one of the people in your life, that you care about, do you intentionally try to make feel bad? I would hope the answer is no one.
    So, just know that when someone tries to make you feel bad, they can not possibly care about you. It is even worse when it is to make them feel better. How many people would you like to have in your life that intentionally try to make you feel bad? I would hope the answer is zero.