Are you being gaslighted? Do you want to know how to turn the tables on a gaslighter? If so, this is the guide for you.
It features a list of telltale signs that you’re dealing with a gaslighter, plus 21 ideas for how to respectfully put them in their place.
This is a horrible and difficult situation to face. It’s a problem I’m regularly helping my life coaching clients with – and that’s why I was keen to write this guide for you.
Let’s dive in.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation used to make someone doubt their perception, their memory or even their sanity.
The term comes from the 1939 movie ‘Gaslight’, in which a husband continues to make small changes to the family home while denying anything had changed to make his wife believe she was going insane. The changes included dimming the gaslights.
However, gaslighting can be much more subtle than this. It is often solely verbal. The sad thing is: it is usually performed by people who we think we can trust the most. Indeed, most gaslighters will work to gain our trust before their manipulative behavior.
What Does A Gaslighter Want?
To simplify things dramatically, a gaslighter typically wants the opposite of what you want. They’ll try to get it by convincing you that you’re irrational (or even insane) for your opinions and desires. Essentially, they’re manipulating you for their own gain.
Narcissists will often resort to gaslighting to get the attention they crave so deeply. A narcissist is happy to start a pointless argument if it means the attention is on them. In extreme situations, narcissists will often gaslight partners or family members to make them feel reliant on them.
It’s suggested that the desire to gaslight often stems from childhood trauma. There are people who have been so badly hurt that they’re committed to exacting revenge on anyone who comes too close to them.
Signs Of Gaslighting
If you’re being gaslighted, you’ll often begin to:
- second-guess yourself;
- lack self-confidence;
- feel unable to make decisions on your own;
- feel unable to do anything right;
- excuse abusive behavior.
If you only begin to feel this way after a new important person arrives in your life, that’s a reliable sign that this person is gaslighting you.
A gaslighter will commonly blame you for feeling upset with their actions. They may accuse you of being too sensitive or even of perceiving the situation incorrectly. You might notice a gaslighter insisting it was your fault that they did something to upset you, or sometimes completely denying that the incident happened at all.
Do you have a romantic partner or a member of your family who does this? If so, make sure to read my list of ideas for how to turn the tables on a gaslighter below.
Does The Person Doing The Gaslighting Know They Are Doing It?
It’s possible that someone can accidentally make a friend or loved one question their perception or even their sanity.
Perhaps someone will engage in gaslighting tactics purely out of desperation to deflect responsibility for their mistakes, rather than with the deliberate intention to make someone doubt themselves.
However, the most powerful and toxic form of gaslighting is deliberate. This is emotional abuse which can be damaging to your mental health and shouldn’t be accepted from anyone.
Am I A Gaslighter?
You may well be.
Do you regularly tell your partner that they’re “wrong”, rather than accepting their side of the story? Do you tell them they’re “too sensitive”? Do you play the victim when you’re called out for hurting someone? You could be unintentionally gaslighting someone with all these behaviors.
Even just by ignoring the rational points your opponent makes in a disagreement, you could be gaslighting them unintentionally. Perhaps we’ve all been in a situation where we’re so desperate to be right that we have done this to someone.
However, this article is about how to turn the tables on a gaslighter, so let’s dive into my best ideas for how to do that now.
How Do You Outsmart A Gaslighter?
1. Be Aware That Gaslighting Exists
This is a key first step if you want to turn the tables on a gaslighter once you’re aware it’s possible for a lover, friend or family member to turn on you in this subtle way. Many people fall into a gaslighter’s trap because it’s easier to conclude that we are irrational and insane than that someone close to us is manipulating our thoughts.
Re-read the section of this article on the signs of gaslighting if you’re still unsure – and do more of your own research too.
2. Call Out Gaslighting In A Loving Way
If you spot the signs of gaslighting, don’t hesitate to call it out. You don’t need to do it in an aggressive confrontational manner. In fact, you’d be better off assuming that they’re doing it accidentally, and asking them to stop because this is a symptom of an emotionally abusive relationship.
3. Write Down Your Boundaries And Stick To Them
Your personal boundaries are lists of behaviors that you will not accept from people who want to be close to you.
Don’t feel guilty for telling people when they crossed a boundary. It’s important for your mental health and your self-esteem that you do so. If you think you’re prone to gaslighting, write down your personal boundaries and commit to calling out people who cross them.
4. Set Boundaries Based On Gaslighting
If you feel as if there’s a gaslighter in your life, it’ll help to add boundaries based on gaslighting behavior to your list. When someone crosses one of these boundaries, it’s important to be firm with them in saying that you won’t accept this.
“Honey, I love you, but if you tell me I’m imagining things again, I’m going to have to leave.”
5. Phrases To Shut Down Gaslighting
These phrases can come in handy when it feels as if someone is trying to gaslight you.
“My feelings are valid. This is how I feel.”
“Don’t tell me how I should feel. I can feel however I want.”
“I am allowed to explore these topics and conversations with you.”
“I don’t appreciate being told I am being too sensitive/dramatic.”
“I will not continue this conversation if you continue to minimize my feelings.”
“I know what I saw.”
6. You’re Allowed To Feel What You Feel
This is one of the most important facts to remember when dealing with a gaslighter. Don’t forget it.
When you fear suspicion, trust your suspicion. When you feel upset, trust that you’re rightfully upset. Trust your feelings. This self-awareness is key to not fall into a gaslighter’s traps.
7. It’s How You Feel Around This Person That’s Most Important
A gaslighter will do all they can to persuade you that they’re right and you’re wrong. Ultimately, that’s irrelevant if you don’t feel good around this person. Romantic relationships should be mostly about feeling good! If you rarely feel good around your partner, that’s one of the biggest warning signs to listen to, regardless of who is ‘right’ in an argument.
Stay strong and remind your partner of this if they get too caught up in making you feel you’re wrong.
8. Stay Calm And Keep Control Of Your Emotions
A key gaslighting strategy is to rile you up during an argument, so they can make the manipulation worse and accuse you of being irrationally emotional once again. Be aware of this and regain control of your emotions before you begin any debates. It’ll serve you well if you can talk in an even tone, show absolutely no emotion and focus on the facts.
When they see you responding calmly, they might fly off the handle in a Hail Mary attempt to get a reaction from you. Once you witness this behavior, you’ve beat them at their own game.
9. Let Them Win Pointless Arguments
If you swallow your pride and stop engaging in pointless debates, you rob gaslighters of so much power. Gaslighters thrive on convincing people that they’re wrong. If you can be the bigger person, decide you don’t care anymore and stop engaging in the argument, there’s not much more they can do to manipulate you.
10. Stick To The Point
Gaslighters love to deflect from the point of an argument and start making accusations about who you are as a person, especially when they feel you getting the upper hand in an argument. They might also try to bring up other ongoing relationship problems. When they do this, calmly ask them to stick to the original point of the discussion.
11. Don’t NEED Your Partner
It’s easier to get suckered into relationship gaslighting when you’re desperate for a relationship to work. Learn to become happy and independent on your own before you get into romantic relationships. This makes it so much easier to spot and act upon red flags you spot in your partners.
‘Love bombing’ is a red flag to watch out for. It’s where a partner overwhelms you with affection at the start of a relationship to earn your trust, only to resort to abusive and manipulative behavior later on. The difference between ‘love bombing’ and genuine affection is the latter is consistent.
12. Boost Your Self-Esteem
People with a high sense of self-worth are far better prepared to spot and call out the toxic behaviors of a gaslighter. This is an important topic that I regularly talk about with my life coaching clients. My previous article on How To Feel Good Enough is a great place to start.
13. Save Screenshots
You can keep a gaslighter accountable for their words by saving screenshots of key conversations and keeping them stored on your phone.
14. Collect Proof Whenever You Can
You can keep a gaslighter accountable by recording key conversations or writing down important things that they say. This will help prevent gaslighters from convincing you that you’re remembering things incorrectly or making things up.
15. Ask Them Why They Feel This Way
Do this whenever they make an accusation against you. Often, they’ll be left scratching their head and you’ll be able to see them panic internally. You just beat them at their own game.
16. Take Some Space To Quiet Your Mind
If you’re ever left feeling confused about someone’s intentions, step away from the other person completely. Take some time to gather your thoughts and regain control of your feelings, so you can make decisions with a clear mind.
17. Create A Support System
If you’re unsure about a loved one’s intentions, talk to a third party about their behavior. Make sure it’s someone you can trust to be impartial, rather than one of your best friends. An independent party is far better placed to judge whether you’re being gaslit or not. Don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist about these kinds of topics either.
18. Do You Feel Heard?
A gaslighter’s flaw is that they never make their ‘opponent’ feel understood. They’re busy focusing on making them feel powerless.
If someone has no interest in hearing your side of the story, what use is being friends with them? Regardless of whether they’re gaslighting you, they have only their own interests at heart.
19. Empathize With Your Gaslighter
A gaslighter’s behavior is usually influenced by some form of past trauma. Rather than seeing them as a nemesis and trying to turn the tables, perhaps you can help them. This alone can help to ease tensions between you and your gaslighter.
Therapy can be a useful practice to help gaslighters engage in healthier future relationships.
20. Minimize Interaction
The easiest way to end your manipulative relationship with a gaslighter is to walk away from it. Break off whatever relationship you have with them. Stop responding to their messages, so you can regain a sense of control and self-awareness. If that’s not possible, do what you can to minimize interaction with this person.
A gaslighting experience can be exhausting and damaging to your self-confidence. Often, it’ll require some healing time before you’re ready to fully trust people again. Don’t let this experience damage your chance of creating a trusting emotional connection with good people in the future. Speaking with a therapist can help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gaslighting
Let’s round off this article with the answers to some frequently asked questions about gaslighting and how to turn the tables on a gaslighter.
What Might A Gaslighter Say To You?
Here are some classic gaslighter catchphrases to watch out for;
“What did I do to you?”
“I don’t remember saying that.”
“You need help.”
“You’re too emotional.”
“You’re so sensitive.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Why are you acting like this?”
What To Say To Someone Who Gaslights You?
The key is to firmly tell them that your feelings matter. If a gaslighter feels it happened one way, that doesn’t devalue what happened in your reality. Don’t let them devalue your reality.
Some useful phrases include:
“My feelings are valid.”
“This is how I feel.”
“This is my reality and I’m allowed to discuss it.”
How To Destroy A Gaslighter At Work
Sadly, gaslighters appear in the workplace too. Often, it’s a colleague trying to undermine you, either to get ahead of you in the rat race or simply to feel better about themselves.
The strategies listed above work to turn the tables on a gaslighter at work. It’s particularly important to keep receipts of everything they’re doing, as they may need to gather proof to escalate the situation to the HR department later.
Married To A Gaslighter & How To Protect Yourself
Gaslighting can be so subtle that you can find yourself married to a gaslighter before you even discover their intentions.
Assuming your goal is to build a happy marriage, the most important thing is to empathize with your spouse rather than battling against them.
A licensed family therapist or marriage counsellor could help you and your spouse get to the bottom of why they find it necessary to gaslight you.
I hope this guide has armed you with some more useful tips as far as how to turn the tables on a gaslighter.
If you have any questions on this article, leave them in the comments below.
It would be great to hear from you.