10 Clever Ways to Respond to Someone Who is Gaslighting You

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation and abuse with the aim for the victim to start doubting their feelings, events, and reality. It was first used as a term in a play from the 1930s, in which the husband tried to convince his wife that she was going insane to steal from her. It usually starts small and develops, making it complex to recognize and even more challenging to stand up to the abuser. Here are some tips and tricks on responding to a gaslighter to help you stand your ground and decide on your next move. 

Gaslighting happens everywhere

While many believe that gaslighting is a manipulation tactic used in romantic relationships, it can happen everywhere and to anyone. The gaslighter’s “task” is to make you question yourself, your instincts, and even your perception of reality. It is a terrifying experience that leaves you feeling drained, anxious, and confused. 

Responding to gaslighting 

Before we get to useful phrases, remember that most communication happens outside of what you say. You need the proper, confident posture to stand up to the abuser. Furthermore, you need to speak slowly, calmly, and in short sentences since their goal is to toy with your emotions. They can’t do that if you show no feelings. Always use “I” instead of “we” or “you.” 

Collect evidence 

If possible, take screenshots of conversations, emails, and even phone recordings if you feel that you are in any kind of danger. While you may not be able to legally use these records, they could help you keep your sanity. If possible, keep a diary and get others involved. For example, send screenshots to your closest friends, even if the abuser has already isolated you to a certain extent. 

The power of “I”

In direct conflicts with the gaslighter, you can respond with a simple, “I disagree.” You can add, “You may not agree with me, but I don’t have to agree with you either.” They will try to convince you that “everyone” knows they are right and “you are being unreasonable.” Let them. Firmly repeat your belief without getting involved in another conflict. 

The “I know how I feel” 

You do not need anyone to tell you how you feel. So, if they are telling you were being “too sensitive” or minimizing your emotions in any way, shut the conversation down with a simple “I know how I feel.” They will likely keep pushing you into an abyss, with constant claims of overreacting, but that’s fine. You can say, “That might be the case, but still, I feel…” Let them believe what they want, and try to remove yourself from further discussions. 

“I don’t want to argue about that” 

If a gaslighter is trying to convince you of something you know is a lie, you don’t have to bother trying to prove them wrong. Instead, say something like, “I don’t recall it that way, but I do not want to argue about that.” Distance yourself as much as humanly possible while talking to an abuser because that’s the only way to prove a point.

Reclaim your worth 

By appearing stoic and unbothered, you are reclaiming your worth. Standing up to an abuser will increase your confidence and make you feel worthy. By not engaging in petty arguments, you are showing that you know your worth and you have your truth, so regardless of their attempts, you appear unbreakable. The issue is that all this takes a lot of practice, which is why self-care is crucial to standing up to a gaslighter. 

Taking care of your mental health 

Maintaining your mental health should be at the top of your priorities, from meditating to keeping a journal. You can practice affirmations, try the “Wonder Woman” pose in front of the mirror, or incorporate positive self-talk to wash away all doubts. Since life with a gaslighter is terrifying, use your free time to feel good about yourself and care for your well-being. 

Rethink your next move 

As mentioned, gaslighting happens everywhere. It usually occurs in romantic relationships, friendships, at work, or in the doctor’s office, and it can be intentional or accidental. For example, at the doctor’s office, you may be faced with, “It’s all in your head” or “You’re too young for that.” You can either seek a second opinion, but before you do, make sure to be heard by saying, “I am worried,” and “I know that I might be too young/old for that, but I still want that test/exam.” In more stressful situations, you can turn to the medical ombudsperson or go to HR if it is a work-related issue. 

Seek support 

If you are in a situation where someone is questioning your sanity, it would be best to talk to a mental health professional. A therapist will give you tools to move forward and help you understand what you went through. People close to you will be helpful, but a mental health professional will guide you in validating your feelings. 

Be kind to yourself 

If you doubted yourself while dealing with an abuser, that is okay. If you feel unworthy, that is also a typical response to trauma. Walking away from toxic family, friends, work environment, or relationships is admirable but just as challenging. Remember that any person can become a victim of a gaslighter, and do not undermine your experience because abuse does not have to leave you with bruises to feel bruised. Instead of asking yourself how or why you ended up in that situation, be grateful that it did not break you. 

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