Emotional Blackmail Examples (List)

This blog mentions emotional blackmail examples to help you identify tactics used by manipulators to emotionally blackmail people.

Emotional blackmail is an attempt to hurt and manipulate people either intentionally or unintentionally.

Before being moved on to examples of emotions, let’s have an overview of what is emotional blackmail and what are the steps used by manipulators to emotionally blackmail people.

What is Emotional Blackmail

The term emotional blackmail was proposed by Susan Forward in her book Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You (Forward & Frazier, 1998).

Emotional blackmail is an attempt to manipulate people using their weaknesses, secrets or their vulnerabilities to make them do what they want them to do.

Emotional blackmail is done by close or intimate people for example spouse, siblings, friends, children, parents, or anyone who is very close to the person being manipulated.

It is a tactic used by people to manipulate or threaten others to get what they want from them.

The most common sentence used by emotional blackmailers is, ‘ If you don’t do what I say, you will suffer’.

Steps in Emotional Blackmail

The manipulator follows 6 progressive steps to emotionally blackmail others.

These six steps are explained in detail next.

1. A Demand Made by the Manipulator 

The very first step followed by the manipulator is to make a demand from the victim about what they want from them.

This demand is usually complemented by a threat. For example, ‘ Give me the rent by this Monday or you will suffer’.

2. Resistance from the Victim 

When the manipulator has made the demand from the victim, the victim tries to resist or avoid the manipulator because the victim is not sure how to deal with the demand.

The point to be focused in this whole scenario is the disagreeable, displeasing, and obstructive demand which manipulator has made from the victim. 

3. Pressure from the Manipulator 

When the manipulator senses being avoided or his demands not being fulfilled, he pressurizes the victim.

The manipulator wants what he wants so he can cross any limits to get his demands fulfilled. He can hurt the victim or create fear in the victim to pressurize him.

Another tactic which the manipulator uses to pressurize the victim is using phrases such as the victim is being silly, unreasonable (AIBU), or irrational himself.

If the victim comes in the trap of manipulator’s faulty claim, he begins to question his own healthy perspective.

The manipulator could also turn the tables to confuse the victim as a result of which the victim gets pressurized.

4. Threatening the Victim

In this step, the manipulator threatens the victim for doing or not doing something to cause discomfort, pain, or unhappiness for the victim.

The manipulator uses sentences including words ‘ if you don’t do this…, I will do this…’.

The manipulator creates such a situation in which if the victim does not obey him, he will suffer from a negative consequence.

5. Victim Compliance

In this step, the victim complies with the demand of manipulator, either quickly or gradually through the process increasing of self-doubt.

The victim fulfills the demand of manipulator with a feeling of anxiety, resentment, fear, anger, or guilt.

6. The Manipulator Gets his Way Until the Next Demand

In the last step, the manipulator temporarily gets on his way until he feels the need for another demand to be fulfilled.

The intensity and occurrence of these behaviors differ on the basis of the type of relationship involving emotional blackmail.

This emotional blackmailing process is very toxic and harmful to the victims.

The cycle continues as the demands of the manipulator increase.

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Common Examples

A number of tactics are used by manipulators to emotionally blackmail victims.

Some common examples of emotional blackmail, on the basis of four main emotional blackmailing styles, are given below:


There are four main styles used by emotional blackmailers. The first style is the punisher.

The punisher is the emotional blackmailing who uses punishment tactics to manipulate others to do what he wants them to do.

Make a demand from the victim and threatens him that he would do ‘this’ if they do not comply with his demand.

This is a straight threat but often punishers use anger, aggression for silent treatment to manipulate victims. 

For example, when a partner comes back from office he says to his spouse,” I got a promotion today! Let’s celebrate!

Will do the dinner, have a dance and then romance”. The spouse says, ” Oh wow that’s great, congratulations!

But I am a bit tired today. How about tomorrow?” the mood of the partner changes instantly, he moved to his room and slam the door behind him.

The spouse follows to talk to him, but he refuses to respond.


The second style of emotional blackmail is self-punisher.

This style also involves threat but in this case, the manipulator threatens to harm himself instead, if his demands are not fulfilled.

Following phrases are the examples of emotional blackmail by a self-punisher: 

  • “If you don’t agree with me, I will cut my hand!” 
  • “If you don’t marry my sister, I will give divorce to your sister.” 
  • “If you don’t help me today, I will be homeless by tomorrow.” 

Often emotional blackmailers use this technique to make the victims feel that whatever happens to them will be their fault.

In this where the emotional blackmailers turn the tables and get their demands fulfilled.


The third style used by emotional blackmailers is suffered. In this case, the sufferer expresses his emotions and feelings without words.

They give directions to the victims to do something for them without even uttering a word and appearing unhappy in front of them with the help of expressions of: 

  • Sadness or rejection followed by despair, sighs or tears 
  • Pain or discomfort 

The sufferers give the debriefing of any event which is connected to their misery, to manipulate the victims to comply with their demands. 

For example, the victims said to the manipulator that he needs somebody to live in his empty room with an attached bath.

The manipulator said, “Can’t I stay in there for free?” The victim might have thought it to be a joke and laughed. Some days later the manipulator called the victim, weeping, and said, ” I am very unhappy, I can’t pay attention to either my office work or my home chores. I am very stressed out, everything happening to me is unpleasant and bad. I am so unlucky. First that hurtful breakup, the attitude of my coworkers with me, and now this lack of money. I don’t think I will be able to pay my house rent this month. I am devastated. I had a place to live in for free, I am sure I will feel better.”


This kind of emotional abuse is more like a kind gesture or a positive feeling.

A tantalizer reinforces or gives rewards to the victim to get his demands fulfilled.

He uses praises, encouragement, and kind gestures to get his demands met but each time the victim complies with his demand, the manipulator brings in another demand and the victim finds it difficult to refuse him. 

For example, a boss might say to his client, “You are doing a really good job, the job vacancy for a manager will be opening soon, can I count on you till then?”

In this case, the boss is the manipulator while the employee is the victim. The victim becomes happy and agrees with what his boss says.

He skips his lunch breaks, get-togethers, and other important events to complete the work assigned by the boss.

Time passes and the old manager retires.

He finally asks his boss snaps at him, ” can’t you see I am busy? Don’t you have any manners? I didn’t expect this from you. I am glad I have seen your real face, you are not fit for the job of manager”.

The following is a list of the recommended books that can help you increase your knowledge about emotional blackmail.

These books help you identify emotional blackmail, character traits of manipulators, manipulation tactics, and ways in which you can respond to emotional blackmail.

All of these books are informative and helpful. All of these books are easily accessible on the Amazon Store.

Just click the book you wish to study and you will be redirected to the page from where you can access it.

  • Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier
  • Emotional Blackmail Publisher: Harper Paperbacks by Susan Forward  | Jan 1, 1998
  • Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty… And Start Speaking up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, and Unapologetically Being Yourself by Dr. Aziz Gazipura PsyD and The Center for Social Confidence
  • Why Do You Do This?: How To Recognize And Respond To Emotional Blackmail, Verbal Abuse, And Codependent Relationship Patterns by Michelle Moore
  • 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships by Adelyn Birch

What does emotional blackmail mean?

Emotional blackmail is referred to as an attempt to control somebody using emotional tactics to make the other person feel guilty, upset, dependent, or obligated.

How do you emotionally blackmail someone?

Emotional blackmailing a person include threatening or punishing them if you don’t do what you want them to do, making them feel guilty for no reason, blaming them, putting your needs before their, being persistent, threatening to hurt yourself when they do not obey you.

Who uses emotional blackmail?

Emotional blackmail is done by individuals who have established close or intimate relationships example spouse, siblings, friends etcetera.

Two people are involved in this process, the manipulator and the one who is being emotionally blackmailed.

How do you know if someone is emotionally blackmailing you?

Some signs that can help you identify if you are being emotionally blackmail include the following: 

  • You have a close relationship with that person 
  • That person like to boast 
  • That person likes his on voice 
  • That person do not take criticism or advice 
  • He criticizes the opinions of others and gives little importance to other’s success 
  • The attitude of that person fluctuates constantly

What are the signs of a manipulator?

Some signs to identify a manipulator include the following facts:

  • Charm and Niceness
  • Denial
  • Lying
  • Generous with Favors and Gifts
  • Excessive Compliments and Flattery
  • Forced Teaming
  • Good First Impression
  • Pretending to be a Victim

Why do parents use emotional blackmail?

Parents use emotional blackmail to make their children do what they want them to do.

Parents use guilt, fear, intimidation, threats, and sometimes patience, and affection to emotionally blackmail their children.

This blog mentioned the steps used by manipulators to emotionally blackmail people, and some common examples of emotional blackmail to help you clarify your concept about emotional blackmail.

If you have any queries or questions regarding this blog, let us know through your comments.

We will be glad to assist you.


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