From gaslighting in a romantic partnership to medical gaslighting, it’s not easy to navigate the psychological minefield of manipulation. It can be hard to recognize the signs of gaslighting when you’re in it, and even more difficult to defend yourself. Because of this, we tapped in with some psychology experts to learn what the best phrases to shut down gaslighting are, and how you can use them to effectively stand up for yourself in any conversation.
What Is Gaslighting?
A psychological tactic used to exert control and dominance, gaslighting is a term that was introduced to mainstream society in the 1930s. It refers to a situation in which a vulnerable person is manipulated to believe that another person’s actions are their fault.
This can be on a grand scale, like an abuser convincing a victim that they are to blame for the abuse, or a smaller scale, like a disagreement over who was meant to do the dishes. It’s important to be aware of the signs that indicate you could be getting gaslit during a conversation, including blame being shifted, your feelings being trivialized or facts being twisted.
Five Phrases To Shut Down Gaslighting
If you find yourself in the heat of a discussion and noticing signs of manipulation, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified EMDR therapist and clinical trauma professional, Michelle King, offers these five phrases to combat gaslighting.
“I understand your perspective, but I trust my own feelings and experiences.”
Why it works: This phrase asserts your confidence in your own perceptions and feelings, which is key to countering gaslighting. It communicates that while you acknowledge the other person’s viewpoint, you won’t allow it to override your own reality.
When to use it: Use this phrase when someone tries to convince you that your feelings or experiences are invalid or exaggerated.
“We seem to remember this differently.”
Why it works: This is a diplomatic way of challenging the gaslighter’s distorted version of events without directly accusing them of lying. It emphasizes that memory and interpretation can vary between individuals, thus reinforcing the validity of your own recollection.
When to use it: Use this phrase when a gaslighter attempts to manipulate your memory of a past event.
“Let’s stick to the facts.”
Why it works: Gaslighters often rely on subjective interpretations and emotional manipulation. By insisting on objectivity and factual accuracy, you can disrupt their tactics and maintain a firm grip on reality.
When to use it: This is particularly useful when discussing issues or disagreements where concrete facts can be referenced.
“We can continue this conversation when it becomes constructive.”
Why it works: This phrase sets a boundary and signals that you will not engage in unproductive discussions. It conveys that you value respectful and constructive dialogue, thereby discouraging manipulative behavior.
When to use it: Use this when a conversation starts to spiral into gaslighting territory with the other person twisting your words or denying their own actions.
“I’m feeling unheard and disrespected right now.”
Why it works: Expressing your feelings in a clear, assertive manner can be a powerful defense against gaslighting. It shifts the focus back to your emotions and needs, which the gaslighter is trying to undermine.
When to use it: This phrase is appropriate when you feel like your feelings and perspectives are being dismissed or belittled.
Still on the Defense?
- “I’m certain and confident about what I saw/heard/felt.”
- “I don’t agree with your perspective.”
- “It’s not helpful for us to argue about my own experience.”
- “I’m going to trust my own feelings on this.”
- “Let’s agree to disagree on this.”
- “I won’t continue this conversation if my reality is being questioned.”
- “I’m not willing to debate my own feelings or perceptions.”
Be Your Own Advocate
When it comes to one-on-one gaslighting, you’re the only defense you’ve got. Though it can be difficult and painful, it’s crucial that you be your own advocate and stand up for yourself in the face of manipulation. Use these phrases to shut down gaslighting; don’t hesitate to double down on your truth and rise above this psychological tactic.