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How to Get a Gaslighter to Listen to You

The best way to be heard is to leave and cut off contact.

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Source: 123rf/Standard License

You've read about gaslighters' manipulation tactics and you realize that the crazy-making behavior of your spouse, parent, boss, and/or sibling might be a sign of gaslighting. In fact, you may have even read my book for advice on how to deal with these difficult personality types, and how a majority of gaslighters are not interested in changing their behavior.

However, you probably still have hope: You think, maybe I'm just too assertive; maybe I'm too sensitive; maybe if I apologized for something he/she would listen to me; maybe if I'm more direct. You bend yourself into a pretzel trying to figure out how you can change so that he/she will listen. Because how could someone just blatantly ignore you? You must have done something.

Stop overextending yourself to figure out what you did wrong. Even if you learned every effective communication skill that exists, the gaslighter will still never listen to you.

Sure, sometimes you think the gaslighter is listening attentively. But ask them to repeat what you've said. They either can't do it, or they come up with something vague. Gaslighters are never really listening. They practice cognitive empathy acting like they care, but not having any real emotion behind it.

When do gaslighters do this fake listening act? First, in the very beginning, when they're trying to "hook" you. This is called "love bombing." Gaslighters will act like the best listeners in the world if they can get something out of you or get you sucked into a relationship. You think this relationship is great; The gaslighter is everything you've wanted in a partner. So why have they started treating you terribly? Because once the gaslighter has you, they stop acting like a caring person. You scramble, trying to figure out what you did wrong. It's normal to only look at what you did to "cause" this, because the gaslighter's behavior is so different than when you first met.

The other time gaslighters act like they're listening is if you try to leave them. Gaslighters will work at "hoovering" you back into a relationship. They have a deep pit of need. If they haven't found someone to replace you with already, once you try to leave they will do whatever it takes to get you to stay, but it's not because they love you: It's because they're trying fill what is called a narcissistic void. But that void is never filled. You will never be enough.

What happens when the gaslighter successfully hoovers you back into the relationship? The act of looking like they are listening to you just stops, like the flipping of a switch.

So what can you do if the gaslighter doesn't listen? Leave. Cut off all contact. Gaslighters are so wrapped up in their own needs that you will never be heard, no matter how hard you try. You will always be dismissed, judged, or told that you are crazy or a liar. If you continue contact, you are setting yourself up for more pain. Cutting off contact speaks volumes to the gaslighter.

Can't get away? Then work to severely limit your contact. Gaslighters are emotional vampires. The more you are around them, the more dangerous they can become; this is the cycle of domestic violence.

If you are co-parenting with a gaslighter, you may not have the option of completely cutting off contact. See my post on coparenting with a narcissist for some recommendations on how to cope. (Not completely sure if someone is a gaslighter? See 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.)

Remember, knowing when to set boundaries and end a relationship are signs of strength.

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