Examples of Gaslighting Phrases Used To Confuse And Control

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to undermine another person’s perception of reality, memory, or sanity.

As it is not always easy to identify gaslighting, you should be mindful of common phrases and language used by a gaslighter.

Gaslighting is a harmful and manipulative behavior tactic that can have severe consequences on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to how interactions with others make you feel.

Below you will find a list of both common and more subtle gaslighting phrases.  

a man putting his arm around a sad woman on the floor while he speaks to her

Common Gaslighting Phrases

Gaslighting can occur in various contexts, such as social relationships, romantic relationships, and workplaces.

Although gaslighting behaviors can sometimes occur unintentionally, they often involve a person purposefully manipulating another to create doubt and confusion.

The gaslighter wants gain control, power, or advantage over their victim by undermining their perception of reality.

These phrases can be classified into six different categories: trivializing, stonewalling, countering, blocking, denying, and blame-shifting. 

Trivializing involves minimizing or downplaying the significance of someone’s feelings, experiences, or concerns, making them feel as though their emotions or issues are unimportant or unworthy of attention. For example: 

  • “You are so sensitive, you need to lighten up”
  • “It is not that bad. You are overreacting.”
  • “Why are you getting so worked up over something so insignificant?”

Stonewalling is when someone refuses to engage or communicate with another, often by giving them the silent treatment or avoiding conversations altogether. For example:

  • Giving the silent treatment, refusing to engage in conversation, or ignoring the victim’s attempts to communicate.
  • Ignoring the victim’s concerns and pretending not to hear or understand them.

Countering means challenging, contradicting, or questioning someone’s memories, perceptions, or experiences. For example:

  • “That’s not what happened; you must be remembering it wrong.”
  • “Are you sure about that?”
  • “I never said that. You’re just imagining things.”

Blocking or diverting refers to intentionally redirecting or changing the topic of conversation whenever certain issues are brought up to prevent honest communication. For example:

  • “You’re always bringing up old issues. Can’t we just move on?”
  • “Why do you always have to talk about that?”
  • “Why do you focus so much on the negative? Let’s talk about something positive instead.”

Denying refers to flat-out rejecting or refusing to acknowledge the reality of a situation or one’s actions. This strategy is meant to confuse the victim by asserting that they are mistaken or imagining things. For example:

  • “It did not happen that way. You are making things up.”
  • “I never said that.”
  • “You’re crazy if you think I would do such a thing.”

Blame-Shifting means assigning fault or responsibility onto someone else to avoid taking accountability and to make the victim feel guilty.

  • “This is all your fault. You’re always causing problems.”
  • “You’re the reason I’m upset.”
  • “I only did that because you did __.”

Gaslighting Phrases in Families

Unfortunately, gaslighting can occur in families where there are skewed power dynamics, such as in parent-child or sibling relationships.

Additionally, close relationships and emotional ties can make it more challenging to recognize and address such behavior.

It is also possible for adult children to gaslight their parents, which typically occurs if these children had witnessed this behavior growing up.

Below are some examples of gaslighting phrases that can be seen in families:


  • “How are you going to handle the real world? You are too sensitive.”
  • “You’re always making things up to get attention.”
  • “You’re just being dramatic; it’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be.”


  • Gaslighter gives the silent treatment and ignores the victim’s attempts to communicate.


  • “That’s not what happened. You must be remembering it wrong.”
  • “You are not upset; you are just hungry and tired”
  •  “You’re just twisting my words. I didn’t mean it in that way.”


  • “Why do you always have to argue with me?”
  • “We don’t need to talk about this. Let’s just drop the subject.”
  • “I don’t want to hear any more of your complaints. Keep it to yourself.”


  • “It never happened that way.”
  • “I never said that. You must have misunderstood me.”
  • “You’re making up stories to make me look bad. I would never do that.”


  • “If you weren’t so difficult to deal with, we wouldn’t have these issues.”
  • “It is your fault my life has turned out this way.”
  • “You create so many problems in this family.”

Gaslighting Phrases in Friendships

You also might have friends with narcissistic traits who gaslight to fulfill their desire to be in control. This behavior typically comes from a place of jealousy, superiority, and manipulation. Often, this is a result of having grown up in a family where gaslighting was common.

Here are some examples of gaslighting phrases seen in friendships:


  • “You’re overreacting.”
  • “You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
  • “Why are you getting so worked up? It was just a joke.”


  • The friend suddenly stops responding to messages and avoids hanging out with you without any explanation.


  • “You are imagining things.”
  • “You’re twisting my words. I never said that.”
  • “That’s not how it happened. You are remembering incorrectly.”


  • “I don’t want to talk about this. Let’s discuss something else.”
  • “I️ really don’t want to get into this.”
  • “Can we change the subject? I don’t want to talk about it right now.”


  • “I️ didn’t do anything wrong, why should I apologize?”
  • “What are you talking about? I would never say that to you.”
  • “Stop making up stories to make me look bad.”


  • “If you weren’t so difficult to be around, we wouldn’t have these arguments.”
  • “You always are causing problems in our friendship.”
  • “You’re the reason why our friendship isn’t working out.”

Gaslighting Phrases in Relationships

Gaslighting in romantic relationships can be especially damaging, as it affects the intimacy and trust between partners. At the beginning of a relationship, you might not notice the seeds of doubt your partner is planting in your mind.

But, once your defenses are down, the self-doubt starts to creep in.

Eventually, you feel you cannot trust yourself and your perceptions, giving your partner their desired power over you. It’s essential for individuals to recognize these gaslighting tactics from the beginning; if you feel confused or start to doubt yourself, you should seek professional help to navigate these issues or consider leaving the relationship.

Here are some examples of gaslighting phrases seen in relationships:


  • “You need to calm down. This is not worth getting upset over.”
  • “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? You are always overreacting.”
  • “You’re being so dramatic and overly sensitive.”


  • The partner stops responding to messages or calls and avoids spending time with the other without offering an explanation.


  • “You always twist things to make me look like the bad one.”
  • “That’s not how it happened. Were you even paying attention to me?”
  • “If this relationship is so awful, why are you even with me?”


  • “Let’s not talk about this now. I don’t want to ruin the mood.”
  • “Can we talk about this later? I’m too tired to deal with it right now.”
  •  “I️ can’t have this conversation. You’re too emotional to think rationally right now.”


  •  “You must be confused; I never did that.”
  • “That never happened. You’re just being paranoid.”
  • “I never said that. You are always making things up.”


  • “You made me do this.”
  • “This is your fault. Why do you have to make things difficult in our relationship?”
  • “If you were less demanding, we wouldn’t have these issues.”

Gaslighting Phrases at Work

Gaslighting at work can involve your colleagues or boss questioning your memory, perception, and sanity. Regardless of the setting, the gaslighter aims to exert control and feel superior.

Gaslighting in the workplace can create a toxic environment and negatively impact employees’ well-being and productivity. If the situation persists or escalates, seeking assistance from HR or higher management may be necessary to ensure a safe and fair work environment.

Here are some examples of gaslighting in the workplace:


  • “You are too sensitive. You need to toughen up if you want to work here.”
  • “You’re making a big deal out of this. It’s just a minor mistake.”
  • “Calm down. It’s just a part of the job.”


  • Your colleague or manager stops responding to emails and avoids meetings without providing a valid reason.


  • “You’re wrong. I never said that.”
  • “That’s not what I told you to do.”
  • “You must have misunderstood me. You need to learn how to listen better.”


  • “Let’s not discuss this now. I’m busy with more important matters.”
  • “We don’t need to address this issue. You’re not my priority right now.”
  • “I️ don’t have time to deal with you right now.”


  • “What are you talking about? That is not what happened.”
  • “You’re imagining things. I would never discriminate against you.”
  • “I never promised you that promotion. You must be mistaken.”


  • “If you were more competent, we wouldn’t have these issues.”
  • “This problem is on you. You’re the one who can’t handle the workload.”
  • “You’re the reason why our team is failing.”

Subtle Gaslighting Phrases

Subtle gaslighting phrases can be more difficult to detect than overt ones. These phrases tend to be cloaked in seemingly innocent language or presented as concern or humor.

Here are some examples of subtle gaslighting phrases:


  • “You’re usually so level-headed. Why are you getting upset over this?”
  • “I didn’t mean it that way, but if you want to overreact, go ahead.”
  • “You’re being a little sensitive, don’t you think?”


  • The person gives a half-hearted response like “I don’t know” or “It’s fine” without engaging further.


  • “You are the only one who thinks that.”
  • “I don’t remember saying that, but maybe you misunderstood me.”
  • “You’re just being paranoid.”


  • “Let’s just forget everything and start over.”
  • “Let’s not get into this right now. It’s not worth discussing.”
  • “Can we talk about something more positive, instead?”


  • “I️ don’t understand what I did wrong.”
  • “I never said that. You must be confusing me with someone else.”
  • “Don’t be silly – You’re imagining things.”


  • “Why are you lying to me?”
  • “I wouldn’t have reacted that way if you hadn’t provoked me.”
  • “You’re the one who caused the issue, not me.”

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Julia Simkus

BA (Hons) Psychology, Princeton University

Editor at Simply Psychology

Julia Simkus is a graduate of Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is currently studying for a Master's Degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness in September 2023. Julia's research has been published in peer reviewed journals.

Anna Drescher

Mental Health Writer

BSc (Hons), Psychology, Goldsmiths University, MSc in Psychotherapy, University of Queensland

Anna Drescher is a freelance writer and solution-focused hypnotherapist, specializing in CBT and meditation. Using insights from her experience working as an NHS Assistant Clinical Psychologist and Recovery Officer, along with her Master's degree in Psychotherapy, she lends deep empathy and profound understanding to her mental health and relationships writing.