How to Give Someone a Guilt Trip

Four Methods:Appealing to Their ConscienceUsing the PastConsidering a Positive ApproachDelivering a Message

The act of guilt tripping another person, what could also be considered shaming them into changing their actions, can be accomplished a number of ways. However, you should avoid significant deceptions to prevent a conflict between you and the other person. In any case, using the the other person's emotions to change their behavior to your advantage is typically the goal in this situation.[1]

Method 1
Appealing to Their Conscience

  1. Image titled Give Someone a Guilt Trip Step 1
    Determine what change in behavior you want. Is this a point you want the other person to agree to or action you want them to take? This will assist your dialogue.[2]
    • In the case of agreeing to a point or idea, you may be asking the other person to admit they are wrong for saying, writing, or otherwise expressing a certain opinion. For example, if the other person insulted your appearance, you will be targeting their guilt about the statement.
    • In the action case, you are guilt-tripping them about something they took part in physically. For example, if they stole from a store, you are focusing on their feelings about this act in particular.
    • In either situation, you might expand your target to the general feelings of wrong doing on the other person in question.
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    Ask the other person about their offense. You may not get a direct answer about this on the first try, but don't repetitively ask the question the same way each time.[3]
    • This is not a time to directly confront them about lying, more of a chance to turn their shame about the situation into the behavior you want.
    • Rephrase the question until you get an admission of guilt about the statement or action. If you have detailed knowledge of the offense, you might lead them a bit. For example, if they were late to a wedding, you could provide details of the engagement in the question and ask where they were.
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    Provide the other person a chance to explain their actions. This will allow them to realize they need to be held accountable and permit you the opportunity to offer alternatives.[4]
    • It is possible the other person's explanation may not be entirely honest, but you should hear it out nonetheless.
    • If the other person's explanation makes sense, consider accepting it--if you insist on checking it out--you may risk unnecessary resentment between the two of you.
    • If the explanation is blatantly false, then consider re-using the questioning method from the earlier step to get a more accurate account. For example, if you are guilt tripping them for causing a scene at your birthday party, but they blamed a relative that wasn't even in attendance, you might rephrase the questions so they eliminate other parties first.
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    Highlight the other person's errors. You should be careful to link the other person's offense and sense of wrong doing--not accuse them of more than they are guilty of.[5]
    • If the other person was guilty of an expressive offense, point this out and the slander, libel, or emotional lines they have crossed. For example, if they wrote a demeaning letter about a former partner in a public newspaper--this is a crime as well as personal insult.
    • If the other person was guilty of a physical offense, such as damaging your personal music collection while borrowing it, point out the violation as well as the morals of personal responsibility.
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    Select your alternative behavior. This is whatever you want the other person to change their actions to.
    • If this was a guilt trip for an expressive violation, then you may just want the other person to apologize and agree you are in the right. Consider asking them to write a formal apology. For example, in the situation of the violation occurring in print, the apology may appear in the same publication.
    • If this was a guilt trip for a physical incident, you might want the other person to make more actionable amends. For example, if they ate food from your supplies without permission, you might ask them to replace it at their expense.
    • In either situation, set a reasonable time limit for the other person to complete the behavior change.
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    Restore relations. Whatever happened to cause you to guilt trip the other person, and after the alternative behavior is satisfied, you should restore a healthy relationship.[6][7]
    • Review with the other person what went wrong and how you can prevent it from happening again.
    • In the case of an expressive violation, see if you and the other person can change how you communicate.
    • In the case of a physical situation, perhaps find other constructive behaviors to engage in.
    • In extreme cases, consider professional psychological counseling.

Method 2
Using the Past

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    Use what you know about you both. Select a common experience, usually one where the other person is indebted to you in some way. You can use a memory that you know the other person feels guilt or shame about, though this is riskier.[8]
    • There are a wide variety of choices in a situation like this, but you want to select something vivid and with a great deal of emotion tied to the memory. For example, a time where you saved the other person from a bad stage performance or from drowning in a lake.
    • If this is a memory the other person feels guilt or shame about, proceed cautiously. For instance, if you use an old memory of when you took the blame for them stealing from a store--there is some incrimination risk. Or if you have documentary evidence of the other person performing shamefully in pursuit of material gain, this could be construed as the crime of blackmail.[9]
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    Appeal to their senses of the memory. You will need to ensure the other person adequately remembers the incident you are using to guilt trip them with.[10]
    • Use sight, sound, and smell if possible. Describe the memory's elements, but if you can reproduce them in any way, that is also a help.
    • Focus on the parts of the memory where you are in the advantageous situation. For example, if you helped the other person dress better to meet their future spouse, point out the moments you actually selected their attire, told them how to put it on, etc...
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    Describe how much this means to you both. This is to emphasize the value of the memory so you get the measured response you want out of the other person.[11][12]
    • If the past event you use to guilt trip the other person was life altering, then you may get more of a change out of the guilt trip. For example, if you are using the memory of rescuing a friend from a burning house, their response may increase greatly. But if it's only the memory of stopping them from stepping in a puddle of water, then this is not typically going to gain as great a response.
    • If this is a memory of guilt or shame, such as a crime or other morally questionable behavior, then focus on the value of your keeping the other person's confidence on the matter or sharing in the incident. For example, if the past event was the other person cheating on a partner and you negotiated a settlement--this can be a valuable point to you both from which you can get your desired behavior out of the other person.
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    Use the environment. You may want to bring the other person into a situation reminiscent of the memory.[13]
    • This is a variation on the sensory step, but should be done more in conjunction with the value step.
    • This step involves taking the other person into a location similar to or actual from which the memory occurred. For example, if you are trying to guilt trip the other person by having them remember the time you stood all day in the rain to get them tickets to a concert, you can walk them past the same ticket counter (even when its raining) while you are discussing the incident.
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    Evoke a response. Once you have your memory selected, and the other person sufficiently recalling it, you can pick the change in behavior you want them to undergo.
    • With this method, the new response does not have to be at all related to the memory.
    • This can be a favor you need the other person to do that you both agree is equal in weight to the effort given in the memory you used in the guilt trip. For example, if you used the memory of watching the other person's pets for a week the favor can be the other person buying you tickets to a sporting event of equal value to a professional pet sitter or kennel for the same time period.
    • Discuss if the other person's response is adequate to make you "even" for the original memory, if you now owe the other person back, or if the other person still has further responses to make.

Method 3
Considering a Positive Approach

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    Review the other person's offense. Whether this is an expressive or physical incident, determine if the other person is already remorseful.[14]
    • If the other person is clearly remorseful early on, you may want to pursue a positive, constructive response rather than a traditional guilt trip.
    • This method is also less likely to garner resentment between you and the other person.
    • Consider a third-party mediator to discuss the issue between you and the other person.
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    Offer an early opportunity to make amends. In this method, you want to provide a way to fix the situation as immediately as possible, and not let the problem linger. It's best if you do this directly, without a go-between, but whatever method is more efficient is preferable.[15]
    • The nature of this opportunity will vary greatly, it could be a written apology, charity/volunteer work, donations, etc...
    • Tailor the opportunity to the offense. For example, if the other person shoplifted, have them not only return the object and write an apology, but help to deter others from doing the same things.
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    Share in the other person's recovery. Don't let the other person feel isolated in their guilt.[16]
    • Whatever new behavior the other person is engaging in, try to do some of it yourself and let the other person see this.
    • For example, if you guilt trip the other person into writing an apology for a false claim on a blog, write positive comments in support yourself.
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    Document both of your experiences. Keep track of your responses, written or actionable.
    • This can help you and the other person track progress towards satisfying the feeling of guilt on their part and injury on yours.
    • If this is a written response, maybe keep an album of clippings from the written publications or similar.
    • In the actionable response category, keep copies of schedules, photos, and/or souvenirs from events. For example, if you used the other person's memory of you getting them to their championship soccer game on time to guilt trip them into helping your charity food drive... you can collect photos of them on the cook's line.
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    Establish any learned lessons. There should be take-away points both you and the other person gain from this experience. Being clear that you both have at least some common ideas about what you went through should be part of the process.[17]
    • In the case of an expressive guilt trip, you can share the other person's mistake and both of your responses as lessons for what not to do and to do in the future. For example, if the other person was guilt tripped into writing a letter to the editor to apologize for an earlier letter that made false claims, and you made supportive comments in your own letter--the two of you can go over etiquette in writing and the subject matter.
    • An example for a physical event, such as you using the other person's memory of a prank call to guilt trip them into help you move furniture for an elderly neighbor, you can discuss the merits of helping others over immature behaviors.

Method 4
Delivering a Message

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    Deliver a message. This can be done in person, by email, text, phone, or in combination. Whatever method you choose, be sure the other person will receive the message in an efficient manner.
    • Despite guilt being a somewhat negative emotion, you don't want to add more negativity by being rude in your messages.
    • Get your point across while being firm and polite.
  2. Image titled Give Someone a Guilt Trip Step 18
    Use text based communication. For text-based communications including e-mail, you can't translate emotion as well, so rely more on memory in the scripting.[18].
    • For example, if you guilt trip someone over standing you up on a date you might try something to the effect of, "I was waiting all night at location X for you, but you can make it up to me by doing Y" where X is the common memory you have of a meeting place and Y is the changed behavior you wish to get out of the other person.
    • Another sample of this might be an e-mail to a boss that you need to get more time for an assignment on. You could remind them of a time you did another job for them by saying something such as, "Remember when I got your taxes done just at the deadline? I need another week on this project."
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    Use personal communication. For personal or phone communication where body language or emotion can be better transmitted, you can use similar phrasing as the steps above, but the degree to which you are upset over the memory may be conveyed through your expressions and affect how much guilt you draw out of the other person.[19]
    • An example of a personal contact may be you having the person over for a drink and guilt tripping them over leaving you with a large bar bill on another occasion when you also had to pay your rent that week. So, you could say something to the effect of, "Do you remember the last time we had a drink together?"--and then discuss repayment.
    • Another type of this contact over the phone might be asking a relative to take you with them on a trip to a place that meant a lot to you as a child. It might go something like, "Uncle Joe, you recall how much I loved seeing the mountains with Aunt Jane, can I go with you on this trip?" Your desire to go would be audible.


  • Make use of direct eye-contact whenever possible during personal communication.
  • Keep up a firm, even tone of voice while talking.
  • Make use of specific memory whenever possible.


  • Avoid explicit lies and elaborate deceptions.
  • Threatening someone for purposes of taking their property (including money) is considered the crime of blackmail.
  • Don't use overly repetitive phrasing that could seem like nagging or complaining.
  • There is always a risk that forcing a change in behavior can damage the relationship between you and the other person.

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Categories: Guilt and Forgiveness