This is a technique I learned from Neil Strauss.
Have you ever done something that you didn’t want to, simply because you were led on a guilt trip?
What if you had an easy technique to maneuver out of such situations?
Guilt is a poor, manipulative strategy to get someone to do something they really don’t want to do. There are people out there — they can be coworkers, friends, family, advertisers, politicians, anyone with a heartbeat really — who will use guilt against you. If you are manipulated into doing something you don’t want to, you are left begrudging the other person and being disappointed for not standing up for yourself.
The use of guilt is a form of aggression. A typical response is to go on the defensive and respond with reasoning, excuses, etc. This is not necessary.
The following psychological technique will show you how to avoid the guilt by not putting yourself on the defensive. Instead, it accepts what the person says and redirects the conversation to what you actually want to do. It is simply a form of mental aikido1 that will maneuver you out of the situation. Not only will you evade the unwanted responsibility, you diffuse the aggression without escalating the situation. And it can be accomplished in three easy steps, making it effortless on your part.
Step One: Agree with the person. It doesn’t matter what they say, just agree with it. It’s impossible for a person to fight with another who agrees with everything they say. Give zero resistance. You diffuse the aggression by agreeing with it.
Step Two: State your purpose. Use no uncertain terms. Just state what you want.
Step Three: Repeat as needed. So it’s really just two things to learn. Whatever the person says, agree with them, and state what you want. You can do this over, over, and over.
Here is a hypothetical situation to imagine this in practice. Let’s imagine a neighbor named Brad who is really good at asking you to help him with his yard work, but never offers to return the favor. In fact, he never even tells you “thank you.” You’ve tried to say “no” before, but he’s one to quickly lay down the guilt and you eventually relent. By now he has even come to just expect you to help him out. You realize you don’t want to spend any more time doing his yard work though. How do you let him know you aren’t going to help him without confronting him head-on?
Brad: Hey what are you doing?
You: Enjoying my day off.
Brad: I was wondering if you would help me mow my lawn today.
You: No, I’m going to lie here in this chair and drink beer all afternoon. (state your purpose)
Brad: Well, you’ve always helped me out in the past.
You: You’re right, I have, haven’t I. (agree) But I’m just going to lie here in this chair and drink this beer today. (state your purpose)
Brad: I thought I could count on you.
You: You can count on me. (agree) But I’m not going to move until all the beer is gone. (state your purpose)
Brad: But I have no one else to ask.
You: That may be true. (agree) But I’m not going anywhere until all the beers gone. (state your purpose)
Brad: I thought we were friends.
You: We are friends. (agree) And when the beers gone later in the day I’m going to start on the scotch. (state your purpose)
(Do this until he understands what you’re telling him.)
Brad: Oh, so you can’t cut the grass today.
You: No I can’t. (agree) I’m going to be lying here all day drinking my beer. (state your purpose)
It’s an effortless technique. Just agree with what the person says, then state your purpose. Do this as many times as it takes.
And here’s a bonus tip: This technique doesn’t only work in response to guilt trips. This form of mental aikido can be used in perceivably more difficult situations to simply get what you want.
Imagine returning an item to a store for a refund that doesn’t give refunds.
You: I’d like a full refund.
CSR: I’m sorry we don’t give refunds.
You: I’m sure you don’t. (agree) But I’d like a full refund. (state your purpose)
CSR: It says right there on the sign, “No refunds.”
You: It does say right there “No refunds.” (agree) But I’d like a full refund. (state your purpose)
CSR: I’m not authorized to give you one.
You: You probably aren’t, but someone is. (agree) And I’d like a full refund. (state your purpose)
CSR: Let me get my manager.
You: Thank you.
Manager: How can I help you, sir?
You: I’d like a full refund.
Manager: Sir, it’s not our policy to give refunds.
You: I agree that probably is your policy. (agree) But I’d still like a full refund. (state your purpose)
(Continue until you get what you want.)
1 Aikido is a Japanese martial art that practitioners can use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.