12 ways you might be unintentionally gaslighting someone

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Gaslighting is the act of altering a person’s perception of reality.

It’s a tactic often used by toxic partners to get what they want in a relationship; they’ll say things such as, “I don’t remember doing that.

You’re making that up”, to intentionally avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

But did you know that gaslighting can be done unintentionally?

In fact, unintentional gaslighting is more common than you might think.

Your friends, family, and even you might’ve gaslit someone without even realizing it.

Being aware of common gaslighting techniques is important to saving your relationships with others.

So below are 12 examples of unintentional gaslighting.

1. Saying White Lies

We often think of white lies as nothing more than a little thing.

If we forgot to buy flowers for our significant other, and instead say they were out of roses, we think that isn’t too much of a big deal.

It’s just a small lie, we tell ourselves. It won’t hurt anybody.

Except that it covers for the fact that you might be more imperfect than your significant other might think.

The reality you’re telling your significant other is that it was the florist’s fault for not having the roses; you paint yourself as the dedicated partner who always had their significant other on their mind.

When in reality, you might’ve really been focusing on something else entirely.

White lies alter reality more than you think.

2. Dismissing a Fight Before Resolving It

You might have found yourself in a fight with your friend, arguing about differing opinions about something.

But instead of coming to a mutual resolution, you say, “I’m tired of this fight. I am done talking about this.”

The message this sends is that you’re denying the other person the chance to share their perspective of reality to you.

You make them think the fight is resolved when it really isn’t.

Out of blind rage and frustration, you took control of the argument and buried the hatchet – when in reality there was more still left to be said.

3. Ignoring Red Flags

Did you know that it’s even possible to gaslight yourself?

Maybe your partner has been abusive and disloyal to you.

Your friends have seen them call you names and treat you as if there was no love in your relationship at all.

But you keep insisting that you can change them.

You tell yourself that they’re just having a bad day, and they just need some rest or to be understood.

By ignoring the red flags, you’re ignoring the reality that your partner might not be the one for you.

The worst part is that you might not even see it; whenever someone brings it up, you tell them that they’re the ones being crazy.

4. Blaming Others for Their Actions

When you’re working in a group and you make a mistake, you might instinctively place the blame on another person for being “too” anxious or “too” irresponsible.

But the reality is that you acted out of your own insecurity. It was a defense mechanism for you.

By deflecting responsibility, you might have accidentally gaslit others.

While it could be very possible that their actions and behavior influenced yours, their responses might have been completely normal — it was really just you.

5. Saying Something Isn’t a Big Deal

When something catastrophic happens to you or someone you know, such as getting into a car crash, losing a job, going through a divorce, it could very much be a coping mechanism to say such a loss isn’t a big deal.

You’re gaslighting yourself to soften the blow of reality:

That you’re going to have to pay a very real and specific amount of money you may not have to pay for repairs; you need to find another job in a competitive job market; and that you’ve spent years of your life with someone that didn’t feel the same as you.

While others may look at situations differently, it’s still important to learn how to accept the situation for what it really is.

6. Not Speaking Up

Sometimes gaslighting can happen without even having to say anything.

For instance, you’re hanging out with someone that believes that you’re their best friend.

In reality, you don’t see them that way at all.

You see them more as someone fun to be around, but not someone you’d invite to be your best man or maid of honor.

But they don’t know that, and you haven’t told them.

By not speaking up, you’re letting them believe that you’re more important to their lives than they might think.

You might even be doing it out of kindness; you don’t want to break their heart, so you keep going along.

But know you’re allowing them to continue living a lie.

7. Being Too Quick to Judge Different People

When someone comes to you with an idea that you aren’t used to hearing, you might be quick to dismiss it.

You might say, “That idea is too weird.”

While you may have had good intentions of saving them from catastrophic failure, by being too quick to judge their idea, you’re actually bending reality to your will and forcing them to conform to your idea of what’s normal.

In reality, it might only be a terrible idea for you.

To another audience, it could be rational and completely sane. It’s just your frame of reference of what a good and bad idea doesn’t match.

8. Disagreeing Based on Someone’s Background

You might be talking to someone about business topics and then walk away telling yourself,

“What do they know? They didn’t graduate from the university that I did.”

The unintentional manipulation of reality here is that you’re saying that the background of someone invalidates their opinion.

It frames the university as a place of stupidity, as opposed to what you believe yours to be as the birthplace of brilliance.

But that of course isn’t true.

Brilliant people can come from anywhere; they aren’t always exclusive to the places where you know where people are.

In other words, you aren’t simply gaslighting; you’re showing prejudice towards that person.

9. Making False Promises

You promise your friend you’ll go to their house at 10 AM but you arrive at 11. You apologize and you go on.

While it might be one small mistake, if you often fail to keep your promises, you’re setting a potentially skewed reality of what promises are to your friend.

It’s even worse if you don’t apologize.

The nature of a promise is that it’s supposed to be kept.

The more you fall through your promises, the less impact a promise begins to have.

Your friend might become warier than they should be when others are making promises.

10. Spreading Gossip

You might have heard from your close contacts that someone you knew impregnated a random woman and left her.

You have no evidence to prove it; it’s just hearsay.

But you think it’s too juicy not to share, so you pass it along.

By passing it along, you’re changing people’s perception of that person you’re gossiping about.

By telling others, you paint him as someone who’s reckless, unreliable, and too promiscuous.

When the reality of it is that what you’re saying really isn’t true.

You’re spreading misinformation, and that has real consequences.

In this case, it’s someone’s reputation.

11. Exaggerating Experiences

When you share online that the food at the restaurant that you ate at had the worst food in the world, you’re spreading a lie.

While it might be played off as humor, it’s also possible for people to change their perception of the restaurant.

If you meet someone who actually likes the food, you might reactively call them insane; you’re gaslighting them into thinking there’s a problem with them when there really isn’t.

The food might not actually be horrible; it just isn’t the type of food that you normally eat.

12. Being Too Motivational

When someone is lagging behind you in terms of mastery of a skill, you might feel the need to encourage them and say, “It’ll be alright! You have nothing to worry about!

Everything will work out.”

While your intention might of course be admirable, you might actually be setting them up for disappointment and frustration.

The reality is that you don’t have the same body type and mental capacities.

You might have developed more than them, so to you something might be alright, but to them it’s above what they’re capable of.

13. Dealing with Unintentional Gaslighting

Just because you don’t know that gaslighting is happening doesn’t mean it isn’t actually happening.

Others have compared it to the difference between murder and manslaughter.

Murder is intentional, and manslaughter can be done out of self defense.

Either way, there’s no denying that someone died.

One way to avoid unintentional gaslighting is to have more self-awareness. Take your language, for instance.

There’s a difference in telling someone that they’re ugly and saying they simply aren’t your type.

Pause before speaking.

Place yourself in the shoes of the other person and ask how they might interpret what you’re about to say.

You might not even realize how manipulative you actually are.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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