Gaslighting is manipulating someone in order to compel them to question their own reality, memory or perceptions. Sadly, many people who gaslight don’t even realize what they’re doing. While we might all say or do things that hurt people from time to time, a habit of gaslighting is a different thing altogether with great potential to damage others. Are you guilty of gaslighting? Read on to learn telltale signs of this destructive practice from our panel of professionals.
Lynell Ross, Resource Director for Test Prep Insight, an online education resource company.
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You tell people that what they are going through isn’t that bad
In other words, you don’t allow people to feel their feelings. You say things like, “Cheer up, it’s not that bad,” when they are upset. You try to make them feel better without letting them feel their emotions such as sadness, grief, or anger. Or you try to talk them out of their feelings or experience by denying them.
You tell your friend or family member that they really don’t feel that way
When a loved one tells you that they are frustrated, angry, or upset, you respond by telling them that they really aren’t upset. You refuse to see their position, which is invalidating their feelings. You may say things like, “You aren’t really that upset, or “That didn’t happen.”
You don’t want to feel another’s pain
We often try to talk someone out of their feelings because we feel uncomfortable, so we try to make them feel better by looking at the bright side, instead of sitting with them in their pain. Gaslighting is invalidating a person’s feelings or experiences which destroys trust and connection with them, leaving them to feel alone and misunderstood.
Manipulate someone’s feelings
If you try to convince someone they are wrong because they disagree with you, you may be unintentionally gaslighting them. Opinions vary, but that doesn’t make another person’s thoughts wrong. If you routinely tell someone that what they think or feel is wrong or isn’t real, you are failing to acknowledge their thoughts and experiences.
Over time, this repeated behavior can cause others to question their own feelings and reality. This can be damaging to one’s sense of self and the relationship overall. If you always have to be right and are willing to lie, distort your feelings, or manipulate the feelings of another you are using communication strategies that are emotionally abusive.
Cassandra Fay LeClair, Ph.D.,
Cassandra Fay LeClair, Ph.D., is an award-winning professor, author, and communication consultant. She is an expert in communicating feelings and improving connections. Find her at Cassandra Fay LeClair
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that can bring people down, and although you don’t want to do it to the people around you, you might be doing it unintentionally. One sign you might be gaslighting the people around you is if you’re quick to dismiss what they have to say just because they go against what you think or believe in. Not having an open mind and being judgmental of others might lead you to gaslight the people around you and affect how they perceive themselves.
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