In the world of psychology, gaslighting involves someone trying to convince you into thinking that you are losing touch with reality. Gradually, you’ll start getting convinced that you can’t trust your judgment. Gaslighting started back in the 1930s, it appeared in a play where a man manipulated different aspects of his environment such as dimming gaslights to convince his spouse that she was deluded. And so, the phrase and tactic were born.
While the media refers to it thrillingly, it is a serious problem that remains, especially in the workplace. Utilized by people atop the power structure, it’s a tactic to maintain their power. It affects millions of people across the world. In most cases, the victim seeks professional help after enduring their painful existence for a prolonged period. Seeking treatment emphasizes the fact that something is not right. If you can identify that you are being gaslighted in the early stages, you can prevent years of manipulation.
There are specific signs you should look out for if you think you are being gaslighted in the workplace. Here are the top five.
1. Your Colleagues Remain Silent or Deny Things That Are True to You
You are probably thinking that someone who is gaslighting you will only lie about big things. However, this is not the case. They will lie about all manner of things, big and small. The objective is to throw you off. They can even deny that something happened and insist that your memory has a defect. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “I don’t remember things that way” or “I can’t recall your interpretation of events” or the simply go mysteriously silent. Heads up – you may be being gaslighted. They also may lie about some things that you did the previous day and then insist that you are losing your mind when you fail to remember. This can lead to serious issues at work that can affect your performance, such as doubt, low self-confidence, and perhaps even more serious mental issues such as depression.
2. They Pretend to Be Concerned About Your Wellbeing
An individual who is gaslighting you will tell you that they are disturbed because you forgot to or failed to do something, or you don’t seem like yourself lately. Choosing to now calling out your performance, but in a passive aggressive manner. They perhaps act like you are special because you are not in the right state of mind for you to question yourself. When you start questioning yourself, you’ll sink as fast as an anchor and get stuck.
3. You Are Isolated from Others
They will inform you about the people who talk behind your back. All under pretext of helping you. They may even perhaps seek to separate you from colleagues. Relocating or minimizing your workspace and resources. This marginalization if gas-lighting 101. This has the potential of reinforcing the fear that something is not right with you.
4. They Avoid Emotions or Use Them Against You
Whether you are expressing anger, sadness, or fear, gaslighters will use these emotions against you. They’ll tell you how crying makes you look crazy and weak or getting angry is proof that you cannot maintain your composure or acting unprofessional. They will insist that you are irrational and unreasonable when you get emotional. You’ll find yourself always apologizing for your emotions.
5. They Will Tell You That Seeking Help Is a Sign of Weakness
If you get hospitalized or talk to your therapist about the current situation that you are facing, they’ll tell you that they’ve always been right about your mental health. They’ll say to you that you are beyond help and you can’t get fixed by professionals. Worse yet, they will use it a basis to critique your performance – this is an illegal practice by the way.
How to Deal with Gaslighters
So, how do you deal with gaslighting effectively and stand firm in the truth? Here are a few tips.
1. Realize When It’s Happening
As we said earlier, gaslighting is a psychological tactic aimed at getting a person to doubt their memory and reality. When this happens, you’ll start having self-esteem issues and emotional dependence on other people especially the abuser. During conflicts, you’ll experience a wide range of emotions from anger to confusion and frustration. You’ll find yourself going in circles both in mind and out loud. After recognizing gaslighting symptoms, you need to start working on breaking this cycle.
2. Stand Firm
Gaslighters want you to doubt your perception for them to avoid accountability while causing you to depend on them emotionally. This can lead to internal confusion which will eventually lead to trust issues. To fight this, you need to stand firm and believe in your thoughts and emotions. You need to own your perception to defeat gaslighters in the workplace.
3. Put it Down on Paper
More of a hard tip. To stand firm, you must write things down as they happen. Document, document, document. From confirmatory e-mails after a conversation, to memos to the file. Form the habit of documenting your experiences in as real time as possible and reviewing your writing. Keep a clear record of what’s transpiring around you. A journal is one of the best ways to maintain a record of what’s happening to you. This will build your confidence and trust in the long run. More importantly, if ever questioned or accused of any wrongdoing written back up will go a long way in clearing your name.
4. Simplify the Conversation
Another great way to deal with gaslighters is by keeping the conversation simple and clear. Figure out why you want to enter into a conversation and what you’d like to accomplish. Gaslighters usually lie and change the story, to protect themselves or simply do harm to you. When you start conversing with a purpose in mind, and make sure the discussion sticks to the agenda, you’ll remain grounded on your path instead of being taken in different directions by gaslighters.
5. Be Ready to Exit the Conversation
Gaslighters are talented in using minimizing and deflection tactics. For example, you accomplish a challenging task at work, they respond with a “good for you” or some other condescending, false platitude. If you notice any of these, you should be ready to leave the conversation. The last thing you want to happen is to be minimized by someone who pretends that they care about your health and wellbeing. You need to walk away before the individual starts negatively affecting your perception.
A gaslighter can harm you in ways you’ve never imagined. They are all over the workplace, if you encounter one in yours, you need to avoid them at all costs. Apart from that, you need to practice self-compassion to boost your self-esteem and confidence.
Sherri Carrier is a professional writer and a member of several writing clubs in New York and a frequent collaborator with a dissertation service. She has been writing her own poems since she was a child. The young author gets inspiration from her favorite writers and people whom she loves.