Word of the Year – Gaslighting

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Have you ever unfriended someone? If so, you were taking action on Oxford Language’s 2009 Word of the Year: Unfriend. Or maybe you’ve included an animated graphic in a text message or email — a celebrity, perhaps, making an outrageous expression. If you did, you probably used a GIF — Oxford’s 2012 Word of the Year.

A couple having fun

Not to be outdone, Merriam Webster has its own annual nomination for Word of the Year. For 2022? It may be no surprise to you — it’s gaslighting. It’s a term that dates back to a Hitchcock movie where a husband works to convince his wife she’s going insane. Today, the term has morphed slightly to describe when a person manipulates another person through subtle psychological means in order to gain power and control. Moreover, it’s typically referred to in the context of a relationship, often a romantic relationship.

If your romantic relationship seems to be a bit rocky, you might be wondering about the cause. If you’re thinking that your partner may be gaslighting you, there are warning signs. Writing for CNBC.com, Aditi Shrikant says “Here are three red flags that indicate your partner might be the gaslighting type.”

1. “Their friends don’t come to them when they feel vulnerable.” There’s a lot of truth in the old saying that you can judge someone by the company they keep. The fact is that people are generally very adept at evaluating a person’s character. So even if a person counts someone as a friend, they probably know deep down whether or not they can truly trust them. Watch how your partner’s friends interact with them. If they seem at all guarded with your partner, watch out.

2. “Their language is critical.” Although critical or demeaning language is fairly easy to spot, there’s a subtle difference in how it’s used. A person who is wont to gaslight others may not just focus on someone’s actions. They might also blame someone for simply being in a situation that may be out of their control. It’s a subtle distinction to watch for.

3. “They’ve been told in the past that they gaslight.” Would someone who gaslights actually admit that people accuse them of gaslighting? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. They simply can’t believe another person’s accusations because they can’t see things from anyone else’s perspective.

Does any of this hit home? If so, you might want to read Shrikant’s full article. Or see our recent blog post on gaslighting.