Whether we’re negotiating a real estate transaction, dealing with a family situation, navigating our career, or deciding who to vote for in an election, we all hope for straightforward and fair interactions. I believe most people are honest and want the best for each other, but unfortunately we all run into unethical characters. It’s essential to be aware of potential manipulation techniques that can harm you, your family, or your business. One of the most subtle yet harmful tactics is known as gaslighting. In this article, we delve into what gaslighting is, how to spot it, and how to effectively respond when faced with it in a transactional context.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation tactic that involves causing a person to question their perceptions, experiences, or memory. Named after the 1944 film “Gaslight,” where a man tricks his wife into believing she’s losing her mind, gaslighting is a powerful tool in a manipulator’s arsenal.
In the context of a transaction, gaslighting could involve a party distorting the facts of a deal, denying previous agreements, or persistently questioning your recall of events to make you feel confused and doubtful. From a different angle, it might be used to get you to believe something that you wish were true, but in fact it is not true. For example, you may be offered an investment opportunity that seems too good be true, and the seller uses a bunch of alternative facts to make it seem legitimate in order to feed your appetite to take a route that is not actually in your best interests.
How to Spot Gaslighting:
Gaslighting can be hard to spot because it chips away at your confidence in the truth over time. Here are some signs to look out for:
- You’re second-guessing yourself: If you find yourself constantly questioning your memory or judgment in response to what someone is telling you, this could be a sign of gaslighting.
- Your versions of events are repeatedly challenged: If someone continually insists that things didn’t happen as you remember them, they might be trying to gaslight you. Memories are very malleable, which makes it easy for people to cause someone to remember something differently.
- You feel confused or crazy: Gaslighting is meant to disorient you. If you frequently feel confused, it might be due to someone else’s manipulation, not your own misunderstanding. When people are confused, they get worn down and agree to do things that they normally would not.
How to Respond to Gaslighting:
If you suspect that you’re being gaslighted, it’s essential to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some strategies to employ, particularly focused on financial on legal transaction, but you could apply these in many other contexts:
- Keep Records: Maintain clear documentation of all transactions, conversations, and agreements. When gaslighting occurs, you can refer to your records for confirmation.
- Trust Your Memory and Judgment: Even if someone is challenging your recollection, trust your memory and instincts. It’s okay to affirm your understanding of events.
- Seek a Neutral Third Party: If you’re feeling disoriented or unsure, having a neutral third party present in discussions can help keep interactions grounded in reality. This could be a trusted friend, a family member, or a legal professional with experience in the relevant subject matter.
- Enlist Professional Help: Gaslighting is particularly effective in the context of a subject matter you are not familiar with. When your understanding of something is shaky, you are vulnerable to manipulation. Getting an expert on your side is therefore very important to avoid being the victim of gaslighting. If you are being gaslighted in your personal relationships, consider seeing a therapist to affirm reality for you. If you suspect being gaslighted in a business deal or investment situation, please see a lawyer or professional advisor who is an expert in the subject. They can provide guidance and support, helping you navigate the situation and uphold your rights.
Gaslighting can be a potent manipulation tactic, but awareness is the first step in combating it. Understanding this technique, recognizing its signs, and knowing how to respond effectively can empower you to navigate transactions with confidence and integrity. If you ever feel overwhelmed or uncertain, remember that legal professionals are here to ensure your interests are protected and guide you through your transactions with clarity and peace of mind.