How to Get a Gaslighter to Listen to You
The best way to be heard by a gaslighter is to leave and cut off contact.
Posted Jun 30, 2018
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 Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People - and Break Free for ways 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 — you think, maybe if I'm more direct, maybe I'm just too assertive, maybe I'm too sensitive, maybe if I apologized for something he/she would listen to me. 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 think 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. Ever.
Sure, sometimes you think the gaslighter is listening attentively. But ask them to repeat what you've said. They either just can't do it, or come up with something vague or totally incorrect. Gaslighters are never really listening. This is because gaslighters practice cognitive empathy — acting like they care, but not having any real emotions 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've tried to leave them. Gaslighters will work at "hoovering" you back into a relationship. Gaslighters have a bottomless 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. That void is never filled. You will never be enough to the gaslighter.
What happens when the gaslighter successfully hoovers you back into the relationship? The act of looking like they are listening to you just stops. It's like the flipping of a switch.
So what can you do if the gaslighter doesn't listen to you? 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 with this person, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of pain. Cutting off contact speaks volumes to the gaslighter.
Can't get away from the gaslighter? 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. Read my article on coparenting with a narcissist for some recommendations on how to cope. 10 Tips for Coparenting with a Narcissist
Are you not completely sure if someone is a gaslighter? Take a look at 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.
Remember, knowing when to set boundaries and end a relationship is a sign of strength.
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