You and Gail work together and used to get along fine, but something has recently shifted in your relationship. You notice you are being left out of discussions, email chains, and team gatherings, and you don’t understand why.
You gather your courage and bring it to her attention. Except Gail denies that she has excluded you, tells you to check your spam, and laughs it off.
You know the emails are not being lost, and you feel like an outsider in the group, and you don’t know why this has happened. It continues, and once again, you bring it up to Gail and ask her to please include you.
Once again, Gail denies any wrongdoing and shifts the blame to your poor memory or lousy email skills. She accuses you of developing a paranoid mind and blames you for being outside the team.
We’ve all been there, working with that person who tries to manipulate the situation, make it look like you are the one who doesn’t remember what happened or spins the truth to make you doubt yourself.
It’s classic gaslighting behavior, but it doesn’t have to make you doubt your sanity if you follow these strategies.
First, let’s get on the same page about what gaslighting means. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which someone makes you doubt your perceptions, memories, or sanity. They might subtly twist the truth, deny events, or blame you for their mistakes. It’s like living in an alternate reality where up is down and left is right.
Examples of the techniques they use are denying past conversations, projecting blame, minimizing your feelings, creating doubt, and having a selective memory.
This causes us to doubt our memory and perception. In our example above, when Gail tells you that you are getting paranoid, and the group is not excluding you, it would be very easy to question yourself. We become frustrated, second-guess our abilities, and even question if we are a reliable team member at all! As you can imagine, this causes stress, anxiety, and is hard on your self-esteem.
1. Trust Your Gut:
Now that you know what you’re up against, it’s time to trust your instincts. Gaslighters thrive on making you question yourself, so it’s important to recognize your value and trust your judgment. When you feel that something isn’t right, don’t second-guess yourself. Please pay attention to your gut feelings and trust them.
- Document Everything:
Gaslighters excel at rewriting history and denying their actions. But don’t let them get away with it! Keep a detailed record of all incidents, conversations, and interactions with the gaslighter. This will help you maintain your sanity and provide evidence if the situation escalates and you need to involve HR or senior management. Leave your emotions out of your written account and focus on the facts (even who said what).
- Seek Support:
Remember, you’re not alone in this battle. Share your experiences with trusted colleagues, friends, or mentors who can offer objective perspectives and support. They can help validate your experiences and provide advice on how to handle the situation.
Having a solid support system can make a world of difference when dealing with gaslighters. Be careful about complaining to others about what your gaslighter is doing, as you can be seen as the problem. Speak to only highly trusted colleagues about what you see happening and get their perspective.
- Stay Calm and Confident:
Gaslighters feed off the emotional reactions of their victims. Don’t give them the satisfaction! Maintain your composure and stay calm and confident in your abilities. Keep reminding yourself of your worth and the value you bring to the table. Confidence is the best defense against gaslighters.
Take deep breaths, plan your conversations in advance, and prepare for their tactics so you know what you need to say.
- Seek Professional Help if Needed:
If the gaslighting is taking a toll on your mental health or you feel unable to handle the situation alone, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Your Employee Assistance Plan (if you have one), a therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support during this challenging time. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Dealing with a gaslighter in the workplace can be exhausting and emotionally draining, but you can rise above the manipulation by understanding their tactics, trusting your instincts, and seeking support.
In the story above, the core survival skill is to continue approaching Gail with your concerns. Don’t let her bully you into avoiding the situation. Don’t let her second guess your perceptions or emotions. Don’t let her get away with this underhanded tactic.
Remember, you are not to blame for their behaviors and deserve to be treated with respect. Stay grounded and confident in yourself, and don’t let anyone dim your shine.
Keep moving forward! You’ve got this!