Module 3 - Emotional blackmail and how to respond to it

 It’s all about practice!

The more your parents have been using emotional blackmail to get what they want from you the more manipulative and demanding they will be as they are growing old. 

OK, that was the bad news!

The good news is if you practice to be a good listener, first to yourself and to what really matters to you, the better.

Then next time they criticise you ask them to expand on their comments: "Mum, you often say that I don’t care for you and that is really unfair. Can you remember of a time I was there for you?"

Note: have in mind some instances as you may need to help her to remember them. But do it in a non-confrontational way. The idea here is not to challenge but to bring to mind your efforts.

Parents have had lots of time to learn how to 'blackmail' children because they were acting from a position of authority, as well as having their own emotional issues and limitations.

"Do as you are told because if you don’t..." "Are you listening to me?"  " I don't want to listen to you!"

Invariably as children we learnt to comply even when we didn't really understand what was going on, or else!

Then by the time we are adults we may still feel trapped even when we know all their tricks to get what they want from us. 

Yet, avoiding your parents altogether is unlikely to take away the guilt and resentment that you feel, even if they live far away from you or are no longer alive.

This in turn hold you back because it affects your self-confidence, your other relationships and other areas of our lives.

If only we had learnt how to listen to ourselves and really listen to one another we would be living a more harmonious world because everything starts at home.

Now that your parents are visibly growing old and frail but still using their manipulative trick, consider one of steps below to start with. 

Step 1# – Match what they are saying with their body language, as you would do when listening actively, and ask for clarification. For example, your father or mother are saying they are fine when they are clearly upset.

Put in your own words what you have heard and check to make sure is what has been said. The hard part of it is to avoid jumping into the usual defensive position because that blocks listening and triggers arguments.

Let’s pause for a minute: It may be the case that at some point in your life you had to learn to say no. At first it felt mean, but over time you became good at listening, thinking and deciding - yes or no - without feeling guilty.  

You may be even good at offering an alternative solution to a request. For example: "Dad I can’t make it on that day but what about…" or "So sorry, I have a commitment on that day but let's see how we could go about it."

Step 2# – Use your confidence to say no in other situations to let your parents know how they make you feel. "When you talk to me like that I feel…" or "It's very upsetting to hear you still criticise me as if I was a child."

That may surprise them because you would be bringing in to the open the impact of their words have on you.

Pause: when you talk try to be as calm as possible but without an inch of passivity.  This is because passivity tends to fuel the power of manipulators and passive-aggressive relationships.

Step 3# – don’t rely on your parents changing because they may not. Instead use the power you have within you the change the way they make you feel.

OK, this is easier said than done. But by clearing the emotional roadblocks you will be able to cut through Suzan Forward's FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) and find a clear path leading to the good things ahead of you.

Note: in the end it’s your reaction that gives the power to someone to manipulate you.  So act confidently not to push or be pushed around.

As Suzan says in her book: confident people don't need to push others around. 

She suggests "disconnect the obligation button" and keep on looking for "new responses for old feelings"

Takeaway: Even small changes in your reaction is a step towards being firm and fair in the way you would like to be treated. This in turn will clear the air and the space you need to get on with your own life.

In the next module I will introduce you to the 3 active elements for a life in bloom...
The Active Transformation Blueprint
​The 3-in-1 Active elements leading to good interaction:
Listening | Communication | Relating

​These are the combined elements with the power to transform your relationship with your parents.​

Book reference: Susan Forward (1998) Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You


Answers to some frequently asked questions:

My parents were too busy to be around when I was a child. So we don’t really have a close relationship.

Why do I often get frustrated when I talk to my mother?

What can I do to communicate with my mother in a different way?

Why your frustration with your parents can still keep you awake at night?

Add your own question or comment