Blackmail is a heavy word. Luckily, this crime isn’t committed very often against regular, everyday folk – but emotional blackmail is. Emotional blackmail is a fairly straightforward concept. It involves getting someone under your control through the use of psychological manipulation and mind games.
The problem with this kind of blackmail is how subtle it can be. You think you’re not susceptible, but master blackmailers are capable of slowly but surely creeping their influence under your skin when you’re not paying attention. That’s why you need to be aware of the red flags for this behavior.
Here Are 10 Signs Someone Is Trying To Blackmail You
Guilt-tripping is very common behavior from emotional blackmailers. The goal is to make you feel bad for something you’ve said or done, or to feel bad for them. Blackmailers hope that this will make you cave in and compromise on your beliefs or statements out of sympathy.
Primarily, guilt-tripping uses your compassion against you. It gets even worse if the blackmailer has the support of other people. The tricky part about all of this is that, usually, an expert emotional manipulator will never need to blame you openly. They’ll imply your guilt somehow, often through phrases like:
- “It’s not like I (insert things they’ve done for you) just to help you out before or anything.”
- “Yeah, it’s just that I tried hard at this, but whatever.”
- “I guess it’ll be difficult for me, but maybe I’ll be able to figure something out.”
- “I just thought it would be a great symbol of our friendship/relationship, but if you don’t feel the same, I guess I can learn to handle that.”
- “So I did this because you don’t care about me much, anyway.”
- “I talked to (insert person), and they agree with me on this that you’re unreasonable.”
- “I mean, you owe me, don’t you?”
- “Are you sure you want it to leave this like this, with me in this situation alone?”
Gaslighting involves twisting situations, events, or statements into something that didn’t happen. Basically, it means that emotional blackmailers will try to change a story to best suit their whims, even if that’s not what happened. It can mess with your mental health, positive thinking, sense of self, and, eventually, your perception of reality.
Gaslighters have a way of making you feel like you’re losing your mind, and in the long run, this can be extremely damaging. Here are some common phrases gaslighters use:
- “You’re crazy, that’s not what happened at all.”
- “Actually, it happened in the way I remember it. Don’t you recall?”
- “Lighten up! It’s just a joke.”
- “You’re a little sensitive, huh?”
- “You’re really overreacting to this.”
- “Why even bring this up? Let it go.”
- “I never said or did those things. You must have imagined it.”
- “You’re always reaching all the wrong conclusions.”
- “Don’t be so insecure.”
- “Maybe you need some mental help.”
- “If you’d been listening or paying attention, you would know that…”
- “You’re reading into this whole thing too much. It’s not that deep.”
Stand up to gaslighting by reiterating that what they described is not your reality and stand by what you remember.
3. Promises Of Incentives
Some blackmailers offer some incentive to convince someone to do as they please. They may offer a gift or a favor, or, more menacingly, they may dangle something they know means a lot to you over your head and imply that they could find time to do it if you do something for them first.
Conversely, if someone has already done something nice for you in the past, they may use that old favor to convince you that it’s time for you to do something for them.
Many emotional blackmailers like to take on the role of a protector because they can do whatever they want under the guise of such “protection.” Someone who is trying to blackmail you will likely be very controlling and claim it is for the greater good. They may say things like:
- “I do all of this for you.”
- “I’m just looking out for you.”
- “I care about you, that’s why I’m doing this.”
- “Don’t you appreciate all I’ve done for you?”
- “I only have your best interests at heart.”
Primarily, they use this as a means to control those around them while pretending not to be blackmailers – an easy success for them, as most emotionally abused individuals have difficulty characterizing mistreatment of any kind as abuse. Some even positively view those actions.
It’s important to remember that the kindness of anyone towards you does not make you indebted to them. You are under no requirement to put up with things you aren’t fond of just because someone has positive intentions – and especially if those intentions are secretly bad ones in disguise.
There are healthy ways to get some time and space to process a disagreement. Discipline is not one of them. This involves a blackmailer letting you know indirectly that you’re to blame for what happened and that you must suffer consequences:
- Ignoring you for hours on end after an argument
- Giving you the cold shoulder for days
- Trying to make you feel anxious, jealous, or angry
- Refusing to acknowledge your sadness or emotions
- Withholding information from you to spite you
These seem like insignificant things, but what they do is slowly but surely teach you that fights, disagreements, or other problems will lead to a “punishment” of sorts, which will make you feel even more terrible. You may begin doing everything you can to avoid these disagreements
6. Mentions Of Harming Themselves
An emotional blackmailer may threaten to harm themselves, instead of threatening to harm others. They are banking on the idea that you would be frightened for them, so they imply that if they harm themselves, it will be you who is to blame. They may say things like:
- “I will hurt myself if you don’t do this for me.”
- “I’ll probably just end my life if even you aren’t willing to help me.”
- “If you go, I’ll commit suicide.”
- “I hope you know that if I don’t wake up tomorrow, it’ll be because of what you did.”
- “I guess I’ll just have new scars after having to deal with this all on my own, huh?”
Emotional blackmailers believe that these threats can help them gain control over you. There are also less severe versions of these kinds of threats that don’t mention physical self-harm but still count as emotional blackmail. These statements can include:
- “Do this for me, or I’ll be really upset”
- “I’d be so unhappy if you didn’t help me out with this”
- “I’ll probably cry all night long if you don’t do what I asked”
- “I thought you cared about me enough to do this, and I’m hurt that this relationship is more one-sided than I thought.”
- “You’re going to ruin my whole night!”
7. Calculative Behavior
An emotional blackmailer is often calculative, as this is the best bet they have at controlling you with factual or statistical evidence. The numbers don’t lie, but a healthy friendship or relationship of any kind doesn’t involve perfect 50/50 split rules – they require an exchange of giving and take. A blackmailer may perform the following calculative behaviors:
- They do things for you to get something in return
- Keeping a perfect score of how much you’ve done for each other
- Always expecting you to make up for the time they’ve spent on you
- They use their past positive behavior as proof that you owe them something
Emotional blackmailers never want to be in the wrong. They will always find a way to shift blame onto you, refusing to take responsibility. Common phrases include:
- “Look what you made me do!”
- “I had no way of knowing about that.”
- “You should have been clearer.”
- “I only did it because of what you did first!”
- “This isn’t my fault.”
- “You should have stopped me.”
Blackmailers very commonly make threats to get what they want. They behave this way to gain control over the situation. Indeed, you have to either obey or risk their wrath. Here are some of the common threats performed by emotional blackmailers.
· Threats Against Themselves
We’ve already covered this, but it warrants saying again: an emotional blackmailer may threaten to injure themselves so you will feel guilty and do whatever you can to not be to blame for such an event.
· Threats Against What You Care About
An emotional blackmailer may threaten to break your belongings, hurt the people you love, or ruin your chances at something. These are all hazardous signs of aggression and should not be taken lightly.
· Threats Against You
If someone is making threats against you, this is a serious matter, and you should go to the police and spend the night with people you can trust. Many people make the mistake of brushing off threats with positive thinking, but many physically abusive relationships begin with emotional abuse. Protect yourself.
10. Repeated Shaming For Flaws
It’s okay to be honest and direct about someone’s flaws. But always harping on every minor misstep someone makes is not healthy at all. Someone who wants to blackmail you may do these things to lower your self-esteem so they can get through to you in your compromised state.
This behavior can cause you to doubt yourself, and it can even make you anxious and afraid. You may second guess everything you do, only to have the blackmailer assure you that only they are being honest with you. This will cause you to rely on them more than they deserve, and it may make you feel like no one else could like you, so you’re stuck with them.
All blackmail is terrible, but the sinister nature of emotional blackmail lies in its creeping subtlety and how easily someone can fall victim to it.
Remember, you do not deserve to be treated in this manner, and it is never okay for someone to coerce you into doing anything through manipulation, blackmail, or other underhanded tactics. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from someone who shows signs of wanting to blackmail you.