You’ve heard of the concept of gaslighting — someone using manipulation to make a person question their judgment or in extreme cases, even their sanity.
This sounds so dramatic, you may imagine a person doing something really drastic to make this happen.
But in reality, it can be much more common than you think, and you may not even realize someone is doing it.
I only really understood what it means when I heard a podcast of a young woman and entrepreneur called Hilary, sharing her experience with a book publishing team who was gaslighting her.
It’s important to become aware of the signs that someone is gaslighting you so that you can protect yourself. So let’s take a look at this young woman’s experience and 6 signs of gaslighting that she learned from it.
1) Denying they’ve said something
Throughout the podcast episodes where Hilary explains her experience with gaslighting, she keeps mentioning a pattern of behavior.
The book publishing team she was working with would often tell her one thing, and then insist they’ve said something else.
She mentions that at first she thought she may have misunderstood them — especially since they said it with such conviction.
But in a few cases, she actually had written proof that they had told her something different before. So it became obvious that what was going on was actually her being gaslit.
When she realized this, she was understandably shocked and very upset. She had never thought that a publisher could lie to her so blatantly, making her question her own memory and ability to understand clear conversations.
But unfortunately, this is something that can happen even when you least expect it.
2) Giving false hope
Though many writers work on books for the love of writing, there is also of course something they are promised in return.
In the case of Hilary, it was the financial compensation as well as significant publicity once her book would be published.
But the problem was, the publishing team would continue to give her false hope about when and how to expect these things.
They would drag their feet and push the date back even though the woman herself met all of her deadlines, giving convoluted excuses as to why they couldn’t stick to the original plan.
And even the financial compensation changed as they kept finding more and more expenses that she was apparently responsible to pay for.
Of course, it’s to be expected that unexpected things come up, and plans may change. But when it goes this far, that has crossed the line into gaslighting territory.
3) Using confusing language
For legal reasons and also time constraints, Hilary wasn’t able to share every detail of her interactions with the publishing team.
However, one thing she did mention was how they used confusing language to manipulate her.
They would use vague language on purpose so they could later say they meant something else, and used nonsensical arguments to explain away mistakes or setbacks.
This started to put doubt in her mind about what’s true. She trusted and respected the publisher, so of course she assumed that they knew what they were talking about, and thought that their explanations must make sense, even if she didn’t fully get them at the time.
But at the end of it all, it became glaringly clear that this was just another one of their tactics to gaslight her.
If you feel like you don’t fully understand someone you’re involved with in any way, this is a great warning to always take the time to speak up and ask for clarifications.
4) Withholding affection or approval
You might wonder, if a person who gaslights you treats you so horribly, how come the person being gaslit doesn’t see that and cut ties?
Well, it’s because part of the manipulation tactic is to make the victim dependent on the gaslighter.
Hilary also shares how her publishing team would first lavish her with love and praise, practically begging her to work with them because they loved her and her work so much.
But then, throughout the collaboration, they would also harshly criticize her and even yell at her during calls.
And then there would be times when they ghosted her and didn’t communicate at all.
Obviously, this creates a very confusing dynamic that leaves the person craving the love and affection they were once given.
5) Withholding information
Another sign that someone may be gaslighting you is if they withhold information.
Again, Hilary couldn’t share every detail of her exchanges with her book publisher, but it’s clear from her podcast episodes that her employer was not very transparent with her.
They didn’t give her information about delays that would have allowed her to take on other work commitments in the meantime, and also no proper explanation when her editor was replaced by another person several times.
Obviously, it’s very hard to have any sort of partnership with a person who does this, and it certainly doesn’t establish both parties as equals.
That’s because one person is trying to maintain power over the other through having information the other one doesn’t.
It can be especially hard to deal with this because the gaslighter even makes you feel out of line for asking — but stand your ground and make sure you get all the information you need.
6) Trivializing your feelings
This sign can be challenging to spot, because nobody says outright “your feelings don’t matter” or “your thoughts aren’t valid.”
However, that’s the underlying message that someone sends you when they are gaslighting you.
In the case of Hilary, she mentions that her book publishing team on one occasion yelled “Get over it!!!” at her during a video call.
She was so shaken by the experience, she had to excuse herself to go to the bathroom and cry for a few minutes before she could come back to the call and ask her last few questions.
Other examples of this is when someone suggests that you’re being too sensitive, irrational, or overreacting when you express your feelings.
Either way, it is obviously not a pleasant experience to go through at all, and definitely not a sign of respect or equality in any context.
Protecting yourself from someone who’s gaslighting you
Now you know 6 key signs that someone might be gaslighting you.
It’s terrible that Hilary has had to go through this — but the silver lining, and the reason why she shared her experience too, is that you can now use this knowledge to protect yourself from something similar happening to you.
If you’re interested in knowing more details about her story, you can find the first episode of the 3-part podcast series here.