How To: Properly Use Emotional Blackmail

Whatever happened to the good ole days when emotional blackmail was all the rage and manipulation was viewed as “okay”? No? Was I dreaming? Hmmm…maybe I was the star of a soap opera in another life.

Emotional blackmail can be used by us or against us – either way, it’s a true form of blackmail. I have family members that use it, and they are well-practiced (you know who you are, Mother…) and I’ve also had good friends attempt to utilize this approach (“Are you sure you can’t just swing by and help me set up for the baby shower? Remember the time I helped you move? That was fun.”). It’s a form of manipulation that can never end well. Someone will emerge from this confrontation a little worse for wear. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides.

My friend Abby has used emotional blackmail on boyfriends (or on boys who are friends) that she wants to get to do something. Whether she has gotten them to help her with an Ikea “put-this-crap-together-yourself” project or when she’s sick and needs medicine or soup, she could teach a master class on manipulation. She once even used this tactic to get one of her good friends to sleep with her (or, since my nephews and nieces read this, she wanted him to help her ‘hang some pictures’).

How did Abby do this, you ask? Well, Abby had returned to LA after a death in the family. She admittedly used that scenario as her catalyst to lure a friend over, make him dinner so she could “talk” and then…well, let’s just say they hung a lot of pictures that night. Apparently, once all was said and done, she needed to finish the project they had started, so he came back over another night to ‘hang some more’. I suggested they volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (sarcastic much?).

If done correctly, emotional blackmail can be entertaining. I like to pull this on my family members, especially if they think they have the upper hand. Now, the rule here is to use it on your elders every once in a great while, as they are more practiced in the art of any type of blackmail. For reals. But those younger than you?  Two words – OPEN. SEASON.

My nephews, Dan and JW, are my usual victims. Tis true, and I say it here openly because they would agree with me. I started them fresh at a young age.  I would threaten to take away my love or toys in order to have them help me with a project around the house (FYI – They are more like my brothers as we are only ten years apart. Please don’t think that someone in her thirties is torturing her five or six year old nephews!). Dan, the older of the two, still remembers that I would beg him to rub my neck or feet and promise him money. He recently tried to convince me I owed him at least a semester of his college tuition – I pretended I couldn’t remember.

(For the record, I probably do. But you can’t manipulate the master, Daniel. Puh-lease.)

Am I condoning this? Nah. But I feel like we all need to be aware that this form of relationship warfare is alive and kicking. You can use it or be abused by it – It’s up to you.  Keep your eyes and ears open for it, and practice throwing back.

Remember that time I told you about emotional blackmail? Now you owe me one…





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