Have you ever been embroiled in a heated conversation only to find yourself saying, “No, that’s not what I said,” or “You’re remembering things incorrectly?” It’s a natural reaction, one that, often, we don’t think twice about. However, it’s vital to be aware that these statements, particularly if recurring, could be signs of gaslighting – a psychological tactic where one person attempts to destabilize another’s perception of reality.
While gaslighting is generally viewed as a coercive method employed by abusers, manipulators, and narcissists, it’s also possible to unintentionally fall into these patterns in everyday life. Being unaware of your actions doesn’t negate their impact. Thus, understanding these signs and taking corrective steps toward more constructive communication is crucial.
You Frequently Deny Your Actions, Even When Confronted with Evidence
There’s a profound difference between correcting misconceptions and denying realities. If you find yourself constantly rejecting accusations or downplaying your actions even when faced with solid proof, it’s time to reflect. Acknowledging your missteps and accepting evidence is a step towards personal growth and healthier relationships.
You Often Tell People They Are ‘Overreacting’ or ‘Too Sensitive’
If you regularly dismiss or trivialize the feelings and reactions of others, it might be a sign of gaslighting. Claiming someone is “overreacting” or “too sensitive” strips them of their valid emotional experiences. Recognizing this pattern can help you better empathize with others and communicate more respectfully.
You Change the Subject to Avoid Being Wrong
Falling into a defensive mode when questioned or contradicted is not unusual. But if you habitually divert conversations to evade being wrong, it can serve as a form of gaslighting. Learning to admit when you’re wrong and openly discussing these instances is vital to maintaining a balanced relationship.
You Use Confusion and Complexity to Win Arguments
Incessantly creating confusion or presenting complex narratives to win arguments is another subtle gaslighting tactic. It can disorient the other person, making them question their understanding and judgment. Strive for clarity and honesty in your discussions instead of resorting to complicated explanations and mind games.
You Make People Doubt Their Memory or Perception
Frequently making others question their memory or perception can be an unconscious gaslighting habit. Telling someone they remembered something incorrectly or that their perception is skewed serves to destabilize their sense of reality, a central tenet of gaslighting.
Having recognized these signs, how do we unlearn these harmful patterns? Here are a few strategies:
How to Stop Gaslighting
- Embrace Self-Awareness: Start by reflecting on your actions, words, and their effects on others. Identify these behaviors in yourself and acknowledge that they may be harmful.
- Listen Actively: Pay more attention to the experiences and feelings of others. Practice active listening, focusing on understanding rather than responding or defending yourself.
- Practice Emotional Intelligence: Develop emotional intelligence, recognizing your emotions, and managing them effectively. This way, you can engage more empathetically with others.
- Apologize and Make Amends: If you realize you’ve been gaslighting, apologize sincerely, and make efforts to rectify your actions. Making amends goes a long way in rebuilding trust.
- Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling to change your behaviors, consider seeking help from a professional. Therapists can provide useful tools and techniques to help you manage your actions more effectively.
Realizing that one may be gaslighting is an uncomfortable truth to grapple with. But it’s an essential first step towards fostering healthier, more respectful relationships. Self-improvement is a lifelong journey, and it’s never too late to make a positive change. As Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”