Although gaslighting is not a clinical term, it refers to someone attempting to manipulate you by making you doubt what you believe to be true. For example, after your mother embarrasses you in front of your friends, you confront her. The majority of parents will apologize and seek forgiveness. If she doubles down and tells you that you’re being overly sensitive, she’s probably gaslighting you. In this post, we will look at gaslighting phrases.
Nobody wants their mother to embarrass them or to be treated in this manner. You are right to suspect gaslighting whenever someone denies your feelings, thoughts, or behaviors, especially if it is part of a pattern.
Knowing these common phrases can help you avoid gaslighting. Keep in mind that you are the expert on yourself. Check-in with yourself and pay attention to your intuition. Consider what the other person stands to gain if you believe them. Let’s take a look at some examples of gaslighting phrases below.
Examples of Gaslighting Phrases
Gaslighting is a common form of psychological abuse that often goes unnoticed. It causes people to question their sanity, reality perception, or memories.
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Furthermore, victims of gaslighting frequently feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves. Even more importantly, people use the most subtle gaslighting phrases. Here are some examples of gaslighting phrases used to silence you.
“You are insane and require help.”
Gaslighters frequently act as doctors to their victims. They would rather you doubt your sanity, leading you to believe that the problem is you, rather than their deception and manipulation.
“You need to work on that.”
Such phrases play with our emotions. It’s typically used when you react or behave in an unfavorable way to make you believe the behavior is problematic.
“You’re simply insecure and jealous.”
This is their method of sowing seeds of doubt and insecurity in your mind about your personality, attractiveness, and personality. This allows others to exert control over you.
“You are overly sensitive/overreacting.”
Such phrases demonstrate that the person gaslighting you is unconcerned about your emotions. According to experts, claiming that victims are overreacting or overly sensitive to emotional abuse is a common tactic used by people to undermine your certainty about the severity of the abuse you experienced.
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“Perhaps that’s what you heard in your head, but that wasn’t what I said.”
This phrase denies reality and feelings while asserting control over you. The other person makes it clear that they haven’t done or said anything wrong by saying this. You are the one making things up in your head.
“It was only a joke.”
People who gaslight you frequently disguise cruel remarks, negative comments, and so on as “just jokes.” They can engage in name-calling, taunting, belittling, and contempt while avoiding the responsibility of apologizing.
“You are the problem here, not me.”
Abusing partners frequently refer to their victims as narcissists and abusers, and they project their characteristics and behaviors onto their victims.
Common Relationship Gaslighting Phrases
Gaslighting may employ the following phrases:
- “You’re being far too sensitive.”
- “You’re exaggerating.”
- “I did it because I care about you.”
- “You are the issue, not me.”
- “If you loved me, you would…”
- “You’re insane.”
- “I never said anything like that.”
- “You’re completely delusory.”
- “You’re simply insecure.”
- “I’m not sure why you’re making such a big deal out of this.”
- “You’re such a jerk if you don’t do this for me.”
- “You’re hallucinating.”
- “That didn’t happen.
- “You forced me to do it.”
- “You’re not feeling that way.”
- “It’s not such a big deal.”
- “You’re being overly cautious.”
25+ Gaslighting Phrases
Here are some common phrases used by gaslighters when confronted, as well as more information about how you can empower yourself to respond to gaslighting; you can also use the information below if you find yourself gaslighting others.
Here are 25 phrases that abusers will use to gaslight you:
This is a favorite phrase of abusive or cheating partners, and when combined with projection—accusing you of cheating—the likelihood of your partner manipulating you increases.
Does your boss take your ideas and present them as their own without giving you credit? Do they brush you off when you try to talk to her about it? This phrase is used to end further discussion and let the other person off the hook.
“That didn’t happen.”
Although it can be difficult for parents to hear when their child opens up about negative childhood experiences, healthy parents want to learn everything they can about it and support their adult children.
“That’s something you made up.”
This statement is even more damaging than “that never happened,” because it accuses you of not only making things up, but also of attempting to gaslight and manipulate them.
“You’ve always been insane.”
Watch out for the word “always.” Nobody is always one way. Consider whether this person benefits from my thinking of myself that way. Do other people in my life think of me that way? It may help to recall times when you were not angry, crazy, or bad with money.
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“I’m not sure what you want me to say.”
This could be said when you’re trying to persuade them of your point of view, or when they don’t like hearing calm, reasonable questions about their behavior; it’s a way of prematurely ending the conversation.
“It’s all your fault.”
Assume you left some food for your partner that only needed to be heated up, and they refuse to microwave it, instead blaming you for their hunger; they expected you to serve them hot food and nothing else would suffice.
“Everyone agrees with me.”
If they can convince you that a reasonable person would agree with them, you will likely back down and question your reality. If you already have doubts about yourself in this area, it can be difficult to see the manipulation at work.
“It was just a joke, can’t you take a joke?”
If you become upset because of an insult, you may hear that it was “just a joke” or that they were “just joking.” Of course, close friends, partners, and relatives joke around with each other, but if these are frequently at your expense and you can’t respond in kind without negative consequences, pay attention.
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“How dare you accuse me of doing such a thing!”
I never did that. You are the one who is hurting me. This is a tactic known as DARVO, which stands for denying the attack, reverse victim, and offender. It works because normal people are horrified that they have hurt another person. It gets you to drop your valid concern and focus on earning forgiveness.
“How come you can’t be more like your sibling?”
This phrase may indicate a golden child/scapegoat dynamic, in which the golden child can do no wrong and the scapegoat can do no right, leaving everyone unbalanced as they compete for the parent’s love and attention.
“I can’t feel anything negative around you.”
When defending yourself from abuse, be wary of blanket statements like this one. Perhaps you called them out and their reaction was a torrent of abuse; when you pointed that out, they became hysterical or cold, claiming they couldn’t be themselves around you.
“Something is seriously wrong with you.”
If every time you express your feelings, you are met with a variation of this statement, think about the source: if they walk away feeling superior and you are left wondering if there is something wrong with you, who benefits?
“The Bible commands us to…”
Using religion to deceive you is a form of malice. Inserting themselves into your relationship with God to benefit themselves often works well for them while leaving you shaken and guilty. This is a form of spiritual abuse, and it is never acceptable.
“You’re not perfect, either.”
When you bring up a complaint, the conversation quickly shifts to past mistakes you’ve made, leaving no room for the current issue you’re trying to discuss, which puts you on the defensive, which is the point.
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Your concerns are unimportant to them, so you must be embellishing. Consider whether this person usually dismisses issues I bring up and whether other people in my life accuse me of exaggerating.
“Don’t blame me; I never intended to hurt you.”
This is frustrating to hear. Regardless of intentions, you were hurt, and hearing this stonewalling technique ends the conversation cold. Sometimes the silent treatment will follow. This is a time to be extra kind to yourself as you process what just happened.
“Let’s forgive and forget.”
You consider yourself to be a forgiving person, and if you have heard this in your religious tradition, you may feel guilty for not letting it go. However, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. You can forgive while still maintaining your boundaries.
“Why do you keep bringing up the past?”
Because nothing has been resolved, they are unlikely to listen if you try to point out a pattern of behavior. They have no desire to be held accountable for past abuse.
“After everything I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?”
If said by a parent, remember that they are supposed to care for their children, and that normal parenting is a sure sign that you are being gaslighted and manipulated.
“Don’t you remember what we talked about?”
Perhaps your partner stayed out late without informing you. Most people will pause for a moment and go over their memories to see if this is true. Healthy partners would want to apologize if this is true, but now you are doubting your memory.
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“I believe you need professional assistance.”
Be wary if you are told any variation of this; the gaslighter’s goal, like the play and movie of the same name, maybe to completely break you, and convincing you that you are having a nervous breakdown is an effective way to do so.
“You think you’re so clever.”
This cutting phrase is intended to knock you down a peg or two, especially if your abuser is threatened by your intelligence.
“You have a very active imagination.”
This implies that you made everything up, or at least embellished heavily, and is intended to cause you to reconsider the facts you are attempting to assert, and hopefully cause you to doubt yourself.
“You always have to be right.”
When this is projected onto you, don’t take the bait. Of course, we all like to think we’re right, but when used as a weapon, it’s all about them, not you.
Gaslighting Phrases in Friendships
Yes, friendship can be a toxic relationship because friends may deny your point of view and make you feel as if you’re exaggerating about something that is a personal attack on your self-worth.
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To avoid this, be aware of the following gaslighting phrases that gaslighters frequently use in friendships:
‘You’re overthinking this.’
A friend who knows they’ve hurt your feelings but refuses to accept responsibility will always try to convince you that you’re overreacting.
‘Can’t you take a joke?’
Did you know that you can be amusing without ever belittling anyone? Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
‘Ignore this entirely.’
Another gaslighting tactic is to dismiss their actions because your abuser wants you to move on because it is only a “minor inconvenience.”
‘Oh my goodness, you’re so sensitive.’
This is a classic: your abuser makes it a habit to offend you, but they try to convince you that it’s nothing serious and that you’re exaggerating things.
‘That’s not what happened.’
Have you ever confronted a friend about something they did, only to have them deny your version of events?
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‘How about you calm down?’
This is one of their favorite gaslighting phrases: they emotionally wreck you only to treat you like a lunatic when you figure them out.
‘Be cautious, she may try to deceive you; not everyone is your friend.’
This one came from a jealous friend who didn’t want me to have other friends because she was lonely and tried to turn me against them.
‘Stop being so pessimistic.’
It’s not uncommon for your abuser to elicit strong reactions from you before accusing you of ruining your friendship.
‘Stop taking everything personally.’
A gaslighter will occasionally offend you directly, only to contradict their actions by claiming that this isn’t about you at all.
‘What exactly did I do that was so wrong?’
In this case, your abuser does not blame-shift, but rather refuses to acknowledge their actions, pretending to be the victim by acting clueless.
Responding to Gaslighting
Knowing these common phrases can help you protect yourself from being gaslighted. Remember, you are an expert on yourself. Check in with yourself and listen to your gut. Ask yourself what the other person stands to gain if you believe them.
When you are being gaslighted, a technique known as “grey rock” can help. Be as boring as a grey rock. Do not engage, do not argue. Agree and end the conversation, or at the very least change the subject.
Check-in with other people in your life, as well. Finding a therapist can be beneficial, especially if you believe you are in a long-term relationship with someone abusive or simply not good for your mental health.
Be gentle with yourself as you deal with the gaslighter in your life; being in this type of relationship, whether with your boss, parent, partner, or friend, can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is gaslighting in a friendship?
Gaslighters deceive people to make them doubt their own truth. As a result, victims of gaslighting frequently feel befuddled, insecure, lonely, and fearful of trusting themselves. Gaslighting is a common tactic used in emotional and narcissistic abuse. It can occur at home, with friends, or at work.
What would a gaslighter say?
Lies, false promises, and personal attacks are used by gaslighters to make those around them doubt themselves. For example, during a meeting on Tuesday, your boss says, “You can all leave at noon on Friday.” When Friday arrives, your boss is enraged and says, “I would never say you could leave early.” You hadn’t been paying attention.
What is a good example of gaslighting?
When doing something you perceive as abusive, controlling, or wrong, someone may be gaslighting you if they say, “You know, I only do it because I love you,” or “Believe me, this is for the best.”
How do you respond to gaslighting friends?
Here are eight strategies for responding and regaining control.
- First, check to see if it’s gaslighting.
- Remove yourself from the situation.
- Gather evidence.
- Speak up about the inappropriate behavior.
- Maintain faith in your version of events.
- Concentrate on self-care.
- Include others.
- Seek professional assistance.