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Gaslighting is used by manipulative individuals to make another person doubt themselves and the memories they have. Abusers commonly use gaslighting in intimate relationships as a means to control their partner, but examples of gaslighting can be spotted in all types of relationships from coworking relationships to friendships and even casual encounters.
“There are many places and ways one can experience gaslighting in non-intimate relationships,” says Amanda Levinson, a licensed professional counselor at Neurofeedback & Counseling Center in Harrisburg, Penn. “A gaslighter will often use the same tactics in many situations—in the workplace, within friend groups and among families.”
Examples of Gaslighting
Gaslighting can take many forms and can be difficult to spot. Some examples of gaslighting include:
Minimization or trivialization. This is when someone downplays their words or actions. For instance, let’s say a coworker makes comments that make you feel uncomfortable or threatened. When confronted, the gaslighter might say, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad. You’re just too sensitive.”
Denial. This is when someone tries to deny something happened to make you question your memory. A salesperson might promise you a deal and then later tell you, “I never said that. You’re imagining things.” Or a friend might say, “I wasn’t talking about you; you’re just being paranoid.”
Diverting. This is when someone changes the conversation or directs blame somewhere else when confronted. For instance, in response to you asking an employee if she gave her friend a discount, she says, “Oh, well, Jessica does that all the time. Just yesterday, she let three of her friends use her employee discount.”
Deflecting or punishment. This is when someone blames their behavior on you. A gaslighting parent might say, “Well, you brought this on yourself,” or a boss who sexually harasses you might say “You asked for it when you dressed a certain way.”
False hope. This is when a gaslighter attempts to get something from you without ever intending to reciprocate. A friend might promise to take you to a concert for driving them to work every day and then never follow through. Or a boss might dangle a promotion that never comes to fruition in order to get you to take on more work.
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How to Deal with Gaslighting
It can be difficult to deal with gaslighting, no matter what type of relationship it’s occurring in or whether it happens once or follows a repeated pattern. The first step is being able to recognize gaslighting techniques when you see or hear them. Levinson offers the following advice for dealing with gaslighters in non-intimate relationships:
- Be suspicious. Understand that a gaslighter may be trying to manipulate you and/or others. Always be skeptical of what a gaslighter tells you.
- Ignore him or her. Don’t feed into what a gaslighter tells you, and don’t spread his or her lies.
- Distance yourself. Reduce exposure to the gaslighter as much as possible. If it’s a co-worker, don’t socialize with him or her. If your performance becomes compromised because of a gaslighter, talk to your boss or HR. If a friend is gaslighting you, end the friendship, minimize time spent together and always invite others who can be witnesses. These strategies can apply to family members as well.
- Get a reality check. If a gaslighter has you doubting your own sanity, keep a journal so you can refer back to it later. And check in with others to help you keep the situation in perspective.
For more examples of gaslighting and ways to combat gaslighting in any relationship, check out “How to Survive Gaslighting.”
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