Call a trusted friend and ask him or her if you are a perpetual guilt-giver. It takes courage to become more evolved beings, but the end result can make all your relationships better.
I grew up in a family where the women had Ph.D's in giving guilt. My grandmother could be heard sighing for miles. Sometimes it would go on for hours.
It was her way of showing how unhappy she was over not getting acknowledgment for something she did for the family. Every time I asked her why she was sighing, she would reply, “I suffer.”
It took me years to realize that she was incapable of making herself heard in a way that was not dysfunctional. My mother exhibited a different behavior. She would simply not talk until you went into severe begging, trying to get her to tell you what offense you might have committed.
I not only inherited some of these behaviors but came up with some of my own. I was exceptional at pouting. When someone displeased me, I would sit in a chair with a look of complete despair. This technique takes patience because someone has to notice that you’re unhappy. Then they have to embark on a major inquisition to get you to reveal your angst.
If they are preoccupied, they are not going to want to put in the effort, which leaves you without an enabler. If they finally do engage, it’s often with: “What’s wrong? Are you OK?”
Then comes your classic response: “If you loved me, you’d know.”
Over the years I learned that trying to impose guilt on family, friends or co-workers is merely another way to manipulate people. We develop these behaviors by imitating our family, and they are fairly subconscious behaviors. Becoming aware can take years, and some people simply never “get it.”
It’s unfortunate that becoming proficient in communication skills is not a top priority for us as a society. We spend so much time not saying what we mean and not meaning what we say.
Expending on this kind of irrational dialogue is exhausting. It also creates a lot of unhappiness. Why not spend a little time becoming more aware of what you’re saying and how it’s interpreted by those around you?
Call a trusted friend and ask him or her if you are a perpetual guilt-giver. It takes courage to become more evolved beings, but the end result can make all your relationships healthier, happier and more fruitful.
Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the website at www.stressed.com or call toll-free 800-998-2324.