9 Phrases Gaslighters Love to Use

9 Phrases Gaslighters Love to Use

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“You’re acting insane” or “What are you talking about?”

Gaslighting 101: Gaslighters work hard to make you question yourself. Dr. Sarkis explains that keeping their victims off balance is essentially the point for gaslighters.  If a coworker makes you question your own memory or actions, think of it as a big red flag. By lying about an incident and then telling you that 

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“You’re acting insane” or “What are you talking about?”

you’re the crazy one, they make you question your own lived reality. How to Respond to the Gaslighter We discuss this in more detail below, but we first recommend taking detailed notes of your interactions with the gaslighter. Once you’re aware you’re dealing with one, you know that you’ll have to rely on your word 

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“You’re acting insane” or “What are you talking about?”

and experiences versus theirs. If you write down your experiences and can refer back to them, you’re less likely to question yourself and fall victim to their manipulation tactics. If a gaslighter tells you that you’re acting crazy, try simply saying, “Actually, I remember that happening [X] way.” The key here is to reaffirm your 

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“You’re acting insane” or “What are you talking about?”

version of events without getting drawn into a confrontation with them.

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“I didn’t say that.”

Again, gaslighters want you to question your own reality. It can be maddening to hear someone say something and then hear them say, “I didn’t say that.” You start to think...well, maybe they didn’t say it, then. Maybe I’m wrong.  This technique is also common with people who are considered narcissists.

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“I didn’t say that.”

How to Respond to the Gaslighter If you know that the gaslighter did indeed say what they’re denying (which is made easier if you take notes or screenshots of the interaction), you can simply say, “Yes, you did” and then present them with your evidence. If, however, you don’t have tangible “proof” (which—let’s 

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“I didn’t say that.”

be honest—would be hard to have on hand for every interaction), you can simply say something like, “Hmm. We must be remembering things differently.” Then, move on. Again, the key is to not get drawn into their drama if you can help it.

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“Don’t be so sensitive.”

This one’s a doozy and is also often heard in situations where you’re dealing with mansplaining. First, since when is sensitivity considered a negative trait? We think it’s good to be sensitive to your own needs and to the needs of others around you. In fact, it can be beneficial to have “sensitive” people in the workplace—

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“Don’t be so sensitive.”

they’re in tune to the overall environment and are usually empathetic and kind. Gaslighters often imply that sensitivity is a negative trait. This might also sound like, “You just need thicker skin.” How to Respond to the Gaslighter There’s a lot to unpack here. Not only is the gaslighter insulting you by implying

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“Don’t be so sensitive.”

that you’re not being tough enough, but they’re also deflecting any responsibility for their own words or actions. If someone says this to you, try to react calmly and without showing them much emotion. For example, if a coworker implies that you messed up on a work assignment and you protest, they might use this phrase. In turn, it works best if 

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“Don’t be so sensitive.”

you respond with something like, “I’ve actually done [X, Y, and Z.] Do you want to go over it together?”

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“You’re remembering wrong” or “It didn’t happen that way.”

Another phrase that shows their own denial, this one also tries to get you to question your memory—and sanity. How to Respond to the Gaslighter We think it’s best to keep it short here. Try something like, “Actually, I know that it happened this way. If you remember differently, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

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“Everyone thinks you’re crazy.”

A particularly rough part of gaslighting is the fact that gaslighters want you to think that everyone else agrees with them—and that the whole group thinks that you’re the “crazy” one. Not only does it make you question your own version of events, but it alienates you from the rest of the crowd, which is a lonely place to be. If you’re 

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“Everyone thinks you’re crazy.”

feeling alone and questioning yourself, you’re in a more vulnerable position. This is right where a gaslighter wants you. How to Respond to the Gaslighter Before you react, realize that the gaslighter is trying to get you to feel bad about yourself. He or she wants you to feel alone. If you have a good work environment and positive 

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“Everyone thinks you’re crazy.”

rapport with your colleagues, it’s unlikely that they said anything negative about you at all. Gaslighters thrive off of lying. For this one, we recommend taking it HR or simply saying, “I doubt that” and then disengaging from the conversation.

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“You seem unstable.”

Ah, instability—the gaslighter’s favorite accusation! This phrase wills it into being for them: they want you to believe you’re unstable so that you become unstable.  The more you’re feeling unstable and insecure, the more vulnerable you are to their antics.

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“You seem unstable.”

How to Respond to the Gaslighter A gaslighter will usually use this one if you react to their words or actions in an emotional way. Say you exclaim, “That’s not true!” if they describe a version of events that you know is, in fact, not true. They may quickly respond, “You seem unstable.” They want you to look emotionally unsteady and quick 

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“You seem unstable.”

to anger. If this happens to you, staying calm is your mantra. Do your best to not allow them to rile you up. It might be best to respond with, “It’s interesting that we disagree about this. It sounds like there’s no point in arguing about it, though.”

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“Don’t take it so personally.”

Another version of “too sensitive,” telling someone that they’re taking something too personally means that the gaslighter has said something insulting and doesn’t want to take accountability for it. This one is a cousin to the phrase, “No offense, but...” followed by something that is actually really offensive. Groan.

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“Don’t take it so personally.”

How to Respond to the Gaslighter Gaslighters at work often say that they “want to help” when they’re saying something unkind or semi-insulting to you or about your work. And the workplace is the perfect environment for this: if you react to them in an emotional way, they’ll say you’re taking something personally 

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“Don’t take it so personally.”

instead of realizing it’s about the work. To that we say: your work is personal. Simply respond with, “I think it’s best that we provide constructive feedback rather than comments that can be construed as insulting.”

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“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

We’re all familiar with this one—an apology that’s not an apology. If you’ve tried to express that a gaslighter’s words or actions have negatively affected you, you might hear this phrase in response. They’re not apologizing. How to Respond to the Gaslighter It’s simply unlikely that you’re 

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“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

going to hear a sincere apology from a gaslighter. In fact, we think this is about as close as you’ll get. In this instance, we think simply moving on is best.

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“I was just joking around.”

This phrase is defensive. They’re saying that you’re too sensitive and that they didn’t do anything wrong in one fell swoop. Plus, it makes you look like you can’t take a joke. How to Respond to the Gaslighter If you’ve already expressed displeasure with their words or actions (which you likely did if they responded with this 

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“I was just joking around.”

phrase), try reiterating your point. Something like, “I understand if you thought that [X] was a joke, but I didn’t understand it that way. Could you explain it to me?”

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