How to Stop Yourself From Gaslighting Others (30+ Expert Ways)

Have you ever found yourself saying or doing things that can have a manipulative or damaging effect on someone else’s well-being? If so, you may be guilty of gaslighting without even realizing it.

This kind of action can negatively impact the people around you and leave psychological scars that last for years. Luckily, there are steps you can take to break this toxic cycle for good.

According to experts, here are ways to stop yourself from gaslighting others and learn techniques on how best to handle difficult conversations in healthier ways.

Dr. Tanya English

Tanya English

Chiropractor, Healing With The Blues

Do a self-examination to see why you would want to gaslight someone in the first place

People want to be believed. Everyone wants their point of view and their truth to be taken seriously

So, for instance, when your spouse says, “Well, sometimes you forget what you said,” and you are made to doubt what you said or did, it can lead to overwhelming frustration. 

Sowing seeds of doubt brings more uncertainty. And if you’re the one doing it, ask yourself, “What do I have doubts about in my life?

In the movie “Gaslight,” where this term comes from, a rich niece is wooed and then married to a man who wants her money and riches left to her by her famous aunt. 

He keeps sowing seeds of doubt about her sanity. It’s like a slow poisoning of her mind to doubt herself on every level. Then he can declare her insane, put her away (in the 1800s, it was akin to a death sentence), and enjoy the riches. 

The villain is an insecure, frightened man bent on doing harm to have what he wants. 

What we see in others, we see in ourselves. So what is the reason to keep doubting yourself? Do you have little stability in your relationships, work, career, or social circles? Did you have instability growing up, or maybe you had too rigid an upbringing, and now you can’t quite feel settled when you think for yourself? 

Everyone is a mirror for you in your life.

How are you interacting with others? You can do a self-examination to see why you would want to gaslight someone in the first place. Why would you want someone to doubt what they see and hear unless you try to manipulate them into some kind of outcome?

Emotions are important

Some of the most common emotions that show up in the work of clearing up past upsets are frustration and anxiety

The autonomic nervous system works in two ways—the sympathetic nervous system is on when we are in a fight, flight, or freeze; the parasympathetic nervous system is on when we are in rest, digest, and heal mode. 

In fight/flight/freeze, thinking is unclear, the blood in the body goes to large muscle groups to run or fight, adrenaline is pumped up, pupils dilate to see more of what is going on, and actions are based on fear. 

The body/mind/spirit is no longer thriving. It’s surviving. In parasympathetic mode, rest/digest/heal, the body’s blood goes to the gut to bring nutrients and take away waste products, rest and rejuvenate and the immune system is online. 

So in anxiety and frustration, the digestion and immune functions are off. You don’t need them to run away from danger. This is why many people have digestion and immunity problems. 

It takes hours to come out of sympathetic dominance with no intervention. But simple breathing techniques can shorten that time by hours. 

When we agree with another’s point of view and truth, they can feel safer, less frustrated, anxious, and better able to think clearly. 

If you are gaslighting others, ask yourself, what is the end game here? Do I believe every thought I think? Am I creating the level of drama I’m used to in my life? Even a very tragic experience has some treasure in it. Spend your energy on seeking the treasure. 

Related: 20+ Examples of Gaslighting (According to Experts)

Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS, MSW

Kaytee Gillis

Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor, Choosing Therapy

There is no secret, gaslighting is the word of the year. In fact, Merriam-Webster recently said that “gaslighting is the word of the year” (Associated Press, November 2022). However, even though there is no shortage of its use, many people struggle to use it correctly and even struggle not to gaslight others.

To those who want to decrease their chances of gaslighting others, I offer these tips:

Stop before immediately responding

Stop before immediately responding, and ask yourself what they might be feeling or where these thoughts might be coming from. The way to combat gaslighting is with empathy.

Imagine what led the other person to feel that way

Is there an element of truth to what they are saying? If we can try to imagine what led the other person to feel that way, we might see where they are coming from. 

Not everyone who disagrees or has a different experience is wrong or mistaken. Gaslighting is not a difference of opinion; rather, it is a conscious manipulation by denying someone’s reality by causing confusion. 

Related: How to Respond to Gaslighting

If you genuinely remember the incident differently, coming at it from a place of exploration—rather than being combative—will help decrease any elements of gaslighting.

Use mindfulness

What are you feeling right now? Is it frustration? Discomfort? Perhaps you are struggling with this situation. Maybe the other person feels the same. Use this moving forward. 

Use this to introduce the conversation: 

  • This feels really uncomfortable. I wonder if we are both coming at this from a place of misunderstanding?
  • I feel really frustrated about how this is happening; I wonder if that impacts how I come across. If so, I apologize, and I would like to discuss further if you are open to doing so.

Instead of denying their reality, try to explain what you remember

Instead of denying their reality, try to explain what you remember—but tell them that you are not trying to deny their reality. 

It’s possible that you both can discuss the situation and develop more understanding towards each other and what happened. Most arguments happen not only because of the details or events but how the details or events were discussed, remembered, and handled in the aftermath.

Be open to being wrong

Sometimes there really was a misunderstanding. In that case, having a conversation about it can help you both learn more about each other’s perspective. 

In my practice and personal experience, I often find that if we are open to admitting that we might have made a mistake or assumption, we enter the conversation from a calmer and less combative place. Therefore, the other person is usually less likely to react defensively.

K. Rasmussen

K. Rasmussen

Certified Peer Counsellor and Mental Wellness Coach, Shine & Rise Counselling + Coaching

For such a commonly used term, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what gaslighting actually is. 

It is not: 

  • When someone simply disagrees with you.
  • When someone has a different opinion or perception of events than you do.
  • When someone is insulting you or dismissive of your feelings.

Gaslighting is more serious and much more harmful to your mental health. It’s a form of abuse. The term “gaslighting” has been used by psychologists and therapists for decades to describe the actions someone takes when they intentionally try to convince you that your thoughts, memories, and perception are false. 

They are purposefully trying to make you doubt your sanity with the intent of making you feel helpless and powerless.

Most of us don’t actually gaslight the people in our lives because most of us don’t deliberately intend to cause serious mental health issues for other people. However, we all can and should improve how we listen and respond to others.

Try to listen and pay attention to what the other person has to say

Instead of just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can speak your mind, active listening is when you make a conscious effort to actually hear what the other person is saying. 

Don’t interrupt them. Change your focus from your thoughts, and try to listen and pay attention to what the other person has to say.

Related: 50+ Reasons Why Listening Is Important

Remember that not everything is about you

Every person in the world has unique thoughts and reactions. Understand that other people are entitled to their own feelings and their own perspective. Even if they’re very different from what you think and feel, each person has every right to see, think, and feel for themselves. 

Don’t try to deny their feelings or opinions just because you don’t understand or share their experiences. Their experience is not about you; it’s about them. Realizing and respecting that is the foundation of healthy relationships and healthy communication.

Agree to disagree; it’s really that simple

None of us always agrees with everything someone else thinks, says, or feels. Trying to convince someone that they’re wrong and you’re right is the worst way to resolve a conflict or have a respectful conversation. 

Instead, accept that you disagree with each other and accept that it’s okay. You’re both entitled to your unique thoughts and feelings. Neither of you is wrong or right; you’re just different from each other.

Christine Metz, PhD

Christine Metz

Professor, Institute of Molecular Medicine—Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research | Co-Director, ROSE Study

Medical gaslighting, intentional or unintentional manipulative behaviors (e.g., dismissing, denying, blaming, shaming, etc.) by healthcare providers to exert control over their patients or patients’ caregivers, is never okay. 

You don’t have to be a doctor or healthcare provider to push someone into questioning the reality of their symptoms, pain, or health. We must prevent our internal biases from turning outward as we question the well-being of family members, loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

Listen more carefully and allow people to speak freely without judgment

There are many ways to stop yourself from gaslighting. First, listen more carefully. Be patient—don’t interrupt, and don’t rush the conversation. 

Allow people to speak freely without judgment. Accept what people say as their “reality.” Don’t dismiss what individuals say about their well-being, symptoms, or health. Be curious. 

Avoid certain phrases: 

  • “Are you sure you feel that way?”
  • “Are you sure it isn’t in your head?” 
  • “I am sure the pain isn’t that bad.”

Don’t deny someone else’s “truth”

Don’t trivialize, downplay, deny, or invalidate others’ feelings, symptoms, or pain. Don’t blame. Don’t shame. Don’t deny someone else’s “truth.” 

Related: How to Validate Someone’s Feelings

Instead, create a “safe space” where others can freely share their concerns, symptoms, and emotions. Demonstrate your concern for others’ well-being and health. 

Cultivate empathy in yourself and those around you

Yes, empathy can be developed! Assess your internal biases and reduce them. Grow your curiosity. Ask concerning questions to keep conversations going. 

Try to accurately perceive what it is like for those suffering from chronic symptoms or pain. Respect others, as well as their culture and values. Apologize for mistakes and missteps in your words, even small ones. End your conversation with “Is there anything else you would like to share?” 

Finally, expressing empathy makes those around you feel more supported and cared for and helps you connect with others, which will likely improve your health and well-being! 

Christian Fernandez, M.D.

Christian Fernandez

Medical Researcher and Clinical Assistant, Filler Bite

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that can damage individuals and relationships. It is often used to gain power and control over someone. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize they are engaging in gaslighting until it’s too late. To help prevent this from happening, here are some tips to stop yourself from gaslighting others:

Understand what gaslighting is 

The first step to avoiding gaslighting is understanding what it is and how it works. Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that involves making someone believe they’re wrong or crazy. 

Someone who engages in this behavior may deny things they’ve said or done, ignore or belittle their opinions, or make them feel like they’re not good enough. It can be subtle, or it can be overt.

Ask questions and truly listen

The key to avoiding gaslighting is to learn to listen. This means really listening to the other person and trying to understand their point of view. Don’t make assumptions about their feelings or experiences. Instead, ask questions and truly listen to their answers.

Respect boundaries

It’s important to respect the boundaries of others when engaging in conversations. If someone tells you they don’t want to talk about a certain topic, respect that. Don’t push or try to manipulate them into talking about it.

Take responsibility

It’s also important to take responsibility for your own actions. Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake or said something hurtful, and apologize. Don’t make excuses or try to justify your behavior.

Know your triggers

It’s crucial to be aware of your emotional triggers so you can avoid engaging in gaslighting. If you know that certain topics or conversations make you feel defensive or angry, take a step back and try to practice self-awareness.

By following these tips, you can avoid engaging in gaslighting and help create healthier relationships.

Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD

Carolyn Rubenstein

Licensed Psychologist

Gaslighting is when someone uses psychological methods to manipulate another person’s perception of reality, creating confusion and self-doubt. This type of situation often occurs in romantic relationships but can also happen in other relationships. 

Gaslighting is detrimental to relationships, so it’s essential to refrain from engaging in it. Below are tips on recognizing if you are gaslighting someone and ways to stop:

Recognize that there’s a problem

The first step to fixing anything is identifying there is a problem. This can be accomplished by being aware of power differentials in your relationship when conflicts arise. 

Make amends

Rather than focusing on who is wrong or right, focus on how you can help make the situation better. 

Identify patterns of your behavior and what triggers it

Gaslighting often occurs when we disagree with a person or situation. In these moments, identify what is making you feel this way. Rather than instantly reacting, give yourself time to think more logically about the proper way to handle the situation. 

Ask for professional help

Behavioral patterns can be hard to break. Sometimes it’s necessary to talk to a therapist to help overcome such habits. Rather than being ashamed of seeking help, be proud that you were able to recognize the help you need and are taking steps to improve your relationships. 

Claudia Torrez, MSW, LSW

Claudia Torrez

Associate Therapist, Attentive Psychotherapy & Counseling Center

Empathize with the person

There are a few questions one might ask themselves to determine if they are gaslighting others to stop the behavior. Some questions to ask yourself might be:

  • “What is my goal or motivation?” 
  • “Am I invalidating the thoughts or feelings of others?” 
  • “Am I trying to control someone or the situation?
  • Is what I’m saying factual?”

Answering “yes,” to any of the above questions does not necessarily indicate that you are gaslighting; however, it may help you better understand the intentions of your behavior to recognize what you may be benefitting.

Recognizing the need to be dishonest to control a person or situation can be a huge indicator to take a step back and re-evaluate your goals for the behavior.

Empathizing with the person can be a helpful tool in recognizing and stopping gaslighting behavior. 

Are you able to put yourself in another’s shoes and be okay with the behavior being done to you, or would those actions hurt you? If you are not okay with the behavior, then it may be a good time to re-evaluate your actions.

Finally, are you being honest? This may be one of the more difficult steps because, at times, distinguishing between facts and fiction can be difficult, especially for someone trying to manipulate a person or situation.

Related: 30+ Signs Someone Is Manipulating You

Recognizing your goals and intention and what it is you are trying to gain from the behavior to determine if this is a self-serving behavior can be one of the quickest ways to recognize the potential for gaslighting. This can assist you in re-evaluating your behavior to have healthier communication and relationships.

Dr. David Seitz

David Seitz

Medical Director, Ascendant Detox

Recognize that you may be gaslighting others

Whether it is intentional or not, your words and actions may be causing harm to those around you. Make an effort to stop yourself from saying and doing things that invalidate the feelings and experiences of others.

Acknowledge how your behavior affects others

Gaslighting involves denying the experiences of other people and making them feel small. When you do this, it can have serious consequences for their self-esteem and mental health. Understand how your behavior affects those around you and be willing to apologize if necessary.

Take a step back when engaging in conversations that could lead to gaslighting

If you feel yourself getting defensive or if the conversation is quickly becoming heated, take a step back and try to see things objectively. This will help you remain calm and in control of your own emotions.

Practice active listening when engaging with others

Active listening involves really paying attention to what someone else is saying and responding in a way that shows that you understand. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and eliminate the possibility of gaslighting someone by misunderstanding them or making incorrect assumptions.

Joey Ackerman, LCSW-R

Joey Ackerman

Psychotherapist and Founder, Tête Therapy

Recognize the power of your response

It’s vital to recognize when there is a power differential in your relationship with another person to minimize gaslighting behaviors. 

Gaslighting is typically defined as someone manipulating another person’s sense of reality, resulting in them no longer trusting themselves. 

For example, if you are someone’s boss, educator, medical provider, mentor, or even if you are the individual in a romantic relationship who is less invested emotionally—there is an inherent power dynamic at play that must be acknowledged if you want to minimize any gaslighting. 

Recognizing the power of your response to this person is key. 

  • What is the impact of your words? 
  • How will this person internalize this information? Will it sow self-doubt or create them to feel confused? 
  • Are you confusing their timeline or invalidating their experience? 

If the answer is yes, you should re-evaluate how you speak with them. Make sure not to use invalidating phrases such as “that’s crazy” or “no way, that could never happen” and to clarify how you got to your understanding of the situation.

It’s also essential to allow the other person to explain themselves fully in a safe space without fear of judgment or retaliation. 

Megan Santiago

Megan Santiago

 Mental Health Counselor Intern | Founder, Holistic-Momma

Question how you feel in the moment

A great way to stop yourself from gaslighting others is to question how you feel in the moment. For example, you feel threatened and misunderstood when your partner does not listen to you. 

Identifying those feelings can help you communicate using “I” statements and allow your partner to empathize. This puts the ball in your partner’s court and allows them to respond, and you can problem-solve instead of letting your emotions get in the way.

This can take practice, but when you begin to feel angry, sad, resentful, frustrated, or scared, think about it and what it is you need at that moment. This will help prevent you from gaslighting because you feel threatened and you want to hurt the other person because you feel hurt. 

Just like the saying “hurt people, hurt people” and “misery loves company,” simply explain that if we are not feeling well, we put that on others rather than identifying what we truly need.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

In years past, it was common to see someone being manipulated by someone else. Maybe they were told things that weren’t true, or they were made to second-guess themselves. At the time, there was no concrete term to define this. 

Fortunately, as society has progressed, we have learned what behaviors are and are not acceptable. We have identified and labeled these behaviors, effectively teaching society the harm such behaviors can cause. 

People have also learned how to prevent causing pain to others in the future. One such behavior is the manipulation that was described above. It is now known as gaslighting and is not a good way to act. 

If you think you might be guilty of doing this, here are some ways to stop yourself from gaslighting others.

Separate facts from opinions

There is a difference between making a statement of fact versus stating your opinion. To help ensure you aren’t gaslighting someone, it’s a good idea to understand if a statement that you make is factual or if it is how you feel about something. 

Once you can differentiate between the two, you will be better able to make statements without seemingly contradicting others.

Tell the truth, even if it causes you pain

Some people would rather lie. They may tell themselves, “It’s just a little white lie.” Just because you convince yourself that it’s okay, that does not make it right. 

Many believe that the truth will set you free for a good reason. The more truthful you are, even if telling the truth is less comfortable, the better people will respect you for your honesty. It may also keep them from second-guessing themselves.

Apologize when you are wrong

Admitting our mistakes can be difficult, and giving someone an apology can be even harder. No matter how difficult it might be, it’s integral that if you were wrong, and you realize it (whether you concluded this on your own or with help,) you apologize. 

We all make mistakes. Owning up to our mistakes is brave, and people will appreciate it.

Think before you speak

One of the easiest ways to gaslight another person is by speaking without thinking. Though this habit is something many of us do, the results can sometimes be hurtful

Instead of saying something you might regret later, think about what you want to say and what needs to be said; just because you want to say something doesn’t mean you need to.

Acknowledge the feelings of others

If you put yourself in the other person’s shoes and realize that they have feelings like you do, it might help you stop gaslighting them. 

Think about what you are going to say. How would you feel if someone said the same thing to you? Also, it’s not always what we say but how we say it that can hurt others, so keep that in mind.

Make a concerted effort to be kind

One of my favorite phrases is, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Though I, admittedly, don’t do this as often as I would like, the sentiment has always stuck with me. 

On top of everything, if you can make a concerted effort to be kind, this can help you refrain from gaslighting someone.

No one wants to be gaslit, and many people don’t gaslight others on purpose. In the same way you learned the behavior that causes you to act this way, you can effectively unlearn it. It will take some time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end.

Sameera Sullivan

Sameera Sullivan

Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers

Be honest with yourself and put in the hard effort of altering how you interact

Gaslighting is a harmful behavior that some people develop due to the connections they were exposed to as children. It is feasible to modify this behavior if the gaslighter is prepared to be honest with themselves and put in the hard effort of altering how they interact. 

Some ways you could start are by: 

  • Accepting your imperfections
  • Boosting your self-worth
  • Stopping looking for approval
  • Stopping tip-toeing or being tolerated

When you are with the person you gaslight, pay attention to whether you ever feel anxious. If so, try to determine why.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that I might be gaslighting others?

Questioning others’ reality: If you find yourself frequently telling others that they’re overreacting, misremembering, or imagining things, this could be a sign of gaslighting.

Denying or manipulating facts: Another sign of gaslighting is consistently denying things you’ve said or done, even when confronted with evidence. This may also involve manipulating situations or facts to fit your narrative and make others question their understanding.

Discrediting opinions or feelings: If you tend to dismiss or belittle others’ feelings, opinions, or concerns as irrational, unimportant, or overly emotional, this could indicate gaslighting. 

Shifting blame or responsibility: If you find yourself constantly blaming others for problems or conflicts, it may be a sign of gaslighting.

Using confusion and ambiguity: If you frequently give mixed signals, change your story, or intentionally withhold information, this could be indicative of gaslighting behavior.

Isolating from support systems: Gaslighters might try to isolate their target from friends or family, making them feel more dependent and easier to control. If you’re actively discouraging others from seeking outside support or opinions, this could be a red flag.

Can I gaslight others without knowing it?

Yes, it’s possible to gaslight others without being aware of it. Unconscious gaslighting can stem from various sources, such as unresolved personal issues, past experiences, or learned behavior patterns. It’s essential to be self-aware and willing to evaluate your behavior critically. 

Why do I gaslight others?

There are several potential reasons why someone might gaslight others:

Control: Gaslighting is often used as a means to gain control over someone or a situation. By manipulating their emotions and perceptions, you might feel more powerful and in control.

Insecurity: Some people gaslight others to mask their own insecurities. By undermining someone else’s confidence and self-esteem, you may feel better about yourself or believe that it will prevent them from seeing your own flaws.

Fear: Gaslighting can be a defense mechanism against the fear of vulnerability or rejection. By manipulating someone’s feelings or thoughts, you might believe you’re protecting yourself from potential emotional pain.

Learned behavior: Sometimes, gaslighting is a learned behavior. If you’ve grown up in an environment where gaslighting was prevalent, you may have internalized these behaviors without even realizing it.

What are common gaslighting phrases?

Gaslighting phrases are those that undermine someone’s reality or make them question their own perceptions and feelings. Here are some common phrases that gaslighters might use:

“You’re overreacting.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You’re just imagining things.”
“I never said that.”
“You must have misunderstood me.”
“You always jump to conclusions.”
“You have a terrible memory.”
“That never happened.”
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
“You’re crazy.”

These phrases can cause the person on the receiving end to feel confused, invalidated, and uncertain of their own experiences.

Is gaslighting a mental illness?

Gaslighting itself is not a mental illness; rather, it is a manipulative and abusive behavior. 

However, it can be associated with certain personality disorders. Individuals with these disorders may be more likely to engage in gaslighting as a means of control or manipulation. 

It’s essential to recognize that not everyone who gaslights has a personality disorder, and not everyone with a personality disorder engages in gaslighting.

How can I make amends to those I have gaslighted in the past?

Taking responsibility for your actions and making amends to those you’ve gaslighted in the past is a courageous and necessary step towards healing. Here are some suggestions for making amends:

Self-reflection: Take time to understand and acknowledge the harm you’ve caused by gaslighting. This will help you be more genuine and empathetic when you apologize.

Sincere apology: Approach the person you’ve gaslighted and offer a heartfelt apology. Admit your mistakes, express your regret, and assure them that you are working to change your behavior.

Listen actively: Allow the person to express their feelings and thoughts. Listen without judgment and try to understand the impact your actions had on them.

Respect their boundaries: Understand that the person you’ve gaslighted may need time and space to heal. Respect their boundaries and be prepared for the possibility that they may not want to reconcile or maintain a relationship with you.

Demonstrate change: Make a conscious effort to change your behavior and communication patterns. Show genuine empathy and understanding towards others, and be aware of any potential gaslighting tendencies in your interactions.

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