Gaslighting is a specific type of manipulation, where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.
It may start out with seemingly small offences or microaggressions!
But, the problem is that even more or less insignificant instances of you questioning your own judgment or reality and thanks to the deliberate intent of someone else it can snowball.
You can end up in a cycle of not being able to negotiate your daily life in a way where you are clear-minded, can focus, make sound decisions, or have a sense of well-being.
No matter whether it’s happening in a marriage or with a leader in a professional relationship, it’s important to be aware of the red flags that you or someone you know might be a victim.
The first step to getting out of an abusive situation with a manipulative boss or co-worker is recognising it. The signs are often subtle, and can evolve over time but here are a few things that can help you to recognise it.
5 Signs of gaslighting
- They say rude or mean things that are always jokes. Critical remarks or micro-aggressions disguised as humour. Sarcasm is a really common way to do this and will chip away at your self-esteem. They will pretend they’re saying something in jest when what they’re really trying to do is belittle you or cut you down.
- They minimise your feelings and use them against you. When gaslighters feel threatened, they need you to believe and support their version of events. Being right allows them to validate themselves. If you express scrutiny or ask questions, it will draw their flaws or weaknesses into question. Be mindful of how you do this!
- Presume to be the expert. If someone overwhelms you with statistics, jargon, or facts and wants to weigh you down with paperwork, red tape and procedures this is often a sign they want to maintain their role as an expert and will do anything to maintain that. Tall poppy syndrome is common for these gaslighters.
- Twisting the facts. Emotional manipulators are masters at altering reality to confuse you and will often deny things you know to be true. In the workplace, this can be particularly tricky if you are in some kind of grievance or formal disciplinary process. Make sure to record meetings, as much as possible. This can be time-consuming but helps to jog a memory or clarify the facts.
- Pretend to be concerned for your well-being. Small talk in this situation can be damaging, as often there is a hidden agenda in mind. When one person wants to establish control they may ask probing questions, so that you share your thoughts and concerns early. Try to keep conversations brief and get straight to the point.
This is NOT your fault!
People who engage in this sort of behaviour need to maintain a sense of power and control, even organisations that allow this behaviour to go unchecked in leaders want to maintain a sense of control.
If you have been impacted by gaslighting and are currently off work, due to some kind of grievance or formal disciplinary process, or you are questioning your own judgement or intuition.
STOP! This is very traumatic!