Must-Read List of Gaslighting Phrases You’ve Used
{Without Even Realizing It!}

Gaslighting phrases are not reserved for the gaslighters amongst us! 


The fact of the matter is, there are many common expressions in our language that are socially acceptable but – nonetheless-  are gaslighting phrases.


Before sharing a list of gaslighting phrases, I think it is important to share characteristics of a gaslighter (i.e., emotional abuser):

  • You confront them with clear evidence of their lie and they continue to deny it.
  • You slowly become a frog in boiling water… by which I mean that they slowly acclimate you to their crazy behavior… slowly enough that you don’t notice how crazy your world has become.
  • Their words and behaviors do not match.  NOTE:  Believe their behaviors and do not believe their words.  
  • You get compliments thrown your way every once in a while.  The compliments are bait to keep you engaged in the relationship.  
  • They blame their victims. Gaslighters cannot tolerate facing their actions… so they accuse you of the very things they do to you.  

It is important to note that gaslighting phrases can and do creep into healthy relationships.

Gaslighting is on a continuum from rarely occurring in a relationship to strategically and purposefully trying to make another person feel like they are going crazy.  


With all that in mind, here’s a list of gaslighting phrases that you have used at one time or another…

1. “I spoke with Friend A, B, and C about what you did and they agree with me.”

One of the most primal fears that humans have is that we will be disconnected from our tribe. 


When you share your point of view with other people and they agree with you, it feels good.   You feel more connected with a tribe.

But are you sharing because you need to process with someone you trust?  

Or are you sharing because you feel better if other people back you up?  


Sharing that you have a small tribe of people that agree with you sends the implicit message to your friend that you have ‘proved’ you are right and they are ‘wrong.’ 


Additionally, there is an implicit message that what you are saying is reasonable and reasonable people agree with you. 

If the other person already doubts their thoughts and feelings, it can be very disorienting.


When you are tempted to tell your friend that several people agree with you, I suggest you take a step back and consider why you want to share the statement.


Engaging in a discussion with your friend that considers their points and clarifying your point-of-view will likely be more productive.

List of Gaslighting Phrases #2: “Wow! You really take things personally”

Let’s take a moment to decode this message:


When you say a gaslighting phrase like this, you are telling the other person they are too sensitive…


Or more precisely:  You aren’t comfortable with the person’s emotions and you want to shut down their feelings. 


The fact is, your friend is comfortable with their difficult emotions AND you aren’t comfortable with their difficult emotions.   


Here’s an alternative:  When you catch yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s emotions, it is productive to acknowledge your feelings.  It is also productive to acknowledge their feelings.  


It is perfectly acceptable to say something like, “I hear what you are saying, but right now I am overwhelmed and need a few minutes to calm myself.  I’ll be back in 10 minutes.” 

3. “What did I do wrong?”


Sometimes this is said with true sincerity.   You truly are disoriented and confused about what has happened to to cause your friend’s ire.


Other times- however- this gaslighting phrase has a subtle message:  ‘My actions didn’t warrant a strong response.’ 

In other words, deep down, you know you took an action… but want to minimize the action.  


This gaslighting phrase also works to shift the focus away from you and puts the responsibility on the other to defend their position.


When you are tempted to use this gaslighting phrase, consider asking this question instead:  “What are things that I can change to make it better the next time?”  


You don’t have to agree that the other person’s problem is a problem… but it’s helpful to get curious and listen to the person’s point of view.

4. “Gosh, you really can’t take a joke.”

Just writing this statement makes me feel like I am in middle school all over again.  YUCK!  


Like all the other list of gaslighting phrases, this one is meant to put the other person on the defensive.  


Can you take a second to consider if you have said something that was hurtful or passive-aggressive?   


It is an easy way to evade your part in the interaction.  After all, it is much easier to blame someone else than to own it or share your true feelings.  


Consider this alternative:  Take a deep breath and acknowledge that- when you are tempted to say a gaslighting phrase like that- you are hurt.   


After you have taken a moment to access what is going on inside of you, share your feelings (to the level of your comfort).


No one can make (a sound) arguement with how you feel. 

5. “You need to calm down!”

Put your most logical brain on right now and ponder: 

If you really, really want a person that is yelling at you to calm down, do you think saying, “You need to calm down” is going to achieve that goal?  


I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t put much money on it!


You may have great intention, but the phrasing of this statement is less than stellar!  


Alternatively, you can acknowledge that a nerve has been hit and you want to understand what is upsetting to the person. 

Finally, I leave you with a question:

As I went through the list of  gaslighting phrases we all use, did you notice a pattern? 

Hopefully so!  

If not, check out the ingredients below: 

The basic ingredients for a gaslighting phrase:

  1. React immediately
  2. Blame the other person
  3. Minimize the other person’s point of view

The basic ingredients for a gaslighting-free phrase:

  1. Give yourself a moment (or several moments!)
  2. Purposefully respond rather than react
  3. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions about gaslighting phrases or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


Looking for mental health services in Indy?

As a marriage and family therapist, I also offer: 

Let's Talk! Schedule a Free 15-Minute Phone Consultation
%d bloggers like this: