“You’re too sensitive”: 10 phrases that indicate you’re dealing with a skilled gaslighter

Marcel Deer by Marcel Deer | June 30, 2024, 11:17 am

Are you being gaslit?

Gaslighting has become a buzzword in the popular media as of late, and, as usually happens, this has allowed it to be used in all sorts of contexts. The word’s true meaning, though, is a lot more disturbing than most people imagine.

According to the American Psychological Association, it means “to manipulate another person into doubting their perceptions, experiences, or understanding of events.”

In fact, this definition goes on to relate the behavior of gaslighting to antisocial personality disorder, aka psychopathy. It’s also a known tactic of manipulative narcissists, and in its extremes, it can be considered a form of psychological abuse.

So, how can you tell if someone is trying to gaslight you?

The best way to tell is to listen to what they say because it’s their words that are designed to manipulate, confuse, and control you.

Watch out for these ten phrases that indicate you’re dealing with a skilled gaslighter, and if you find them directed at you frequently, it’s time to get away as soon as possible!

1) “You’re too sensitive.”

When a person says this to you, they’re criticizing your reaction and actually questioning your emotional intelligence.

Gaslighters often have a very low capacity for empathy (some say they have none at all). That means they don’t normally recognize, understand, and relate to other people’s emotions.

At the same time, they’re also trying to manipulate you by denying your version of events and your reaction to them.

So these factors combine, and the result is that they attack your emotional responses to what they may have done. They downplay the seriousness of their own negative actions and try to make you feel bad for reacting negatively to them.

2) “That never happened.”

This kind of phrase is the core of gaslighting because it’s directed at questioning your version of reality. The gaslighter is hoping that if they repeat such phrases frequently enough, you’ll become confused and unsure of yourself.

Then, they’ll be able to take total control over you.

An example of when they might use this is if you didn’t fill up the car with gas one day, and when they went to use it, they lost a few minutes filling it up themselves. Then they came home and yelled at you and called you stupid and inconsiderate.

The next time they ask you to fill up the car, you might bring up this incident and how it made you feel.

But instead of listening to you, they flat-out deny that this incident ever happened.

One time might not cause you to question your own reality, but if they do this again and again, you might begin to wonder if your memory is, in fact, as unreliable as they claim.

3) “You’re out of your mind.”

Whether they tell you that you’re crazy, losing your grip on reality, or out of your mind, these phrases are designed to hurt you.

Not only are they demeaning, but they’re also used to hack away at your self-esteem and your conception of reality.

That’s what gaslighting aims to do – leave you living in a confused haze of not knowing if you’re really seeing and responding to things appropriately.

So what happens if this person constantly attacks you by questioning your sanity?

Well, if this is a parent, partner, or other person who has a lot of control over you, they might be able to truly make you believe it. And once you feel you can’t trust yourself, they’re left as the one person you may be able to trust.

That’s exactly what the gaslighter is aiming at.

4) “You’re imagining things again.”

This phrase is another one that gaslighters often use to deny reality and demean their victims at the same time.

I actually heard a friend of a friend say this once to his wife in an incident I found really confusing.

He’d hosted a poker night at his house, and I’d been invited to make up numbers despite not having met him before.

At one point, his wife came in to bring the host a beer and very meekly reminded him not to be careful and not spill it.

He spat this comment at her very angrily. I mean, he was clearly furious, but I guess he was trying not to let it out too much in front of his guests. It didn’t work well.

The thing is, though, that I remembered my friend telling me about this incident the month before. The same guy had got up to get a beer, and on the way back to the table, he had tripped over his dog and sprayed beer all over everything.

When my friend told it, the story was hilarious. 

But no one was laughing when he told his wife she’d imagined the whole thing. It was too weird.

It was only a few years later, when I found out what gaslighting was, that I realized what was probably going on in that relationship. The good news is I’d heard that by then, she’d already left him.

5) “You must have dreamt that.”

Here’s another phrase that a gaslighter might use to deny their victim’s reality.

Like the previous one, this one is used to suggest that what the person remembers is simply a figment of their overactive mind.

It’s a clever difference to suggest that something was a dream since I think this happens to all of us.

Sometimes, I feel that I truly and deeply remember something happening, but when I really think about it, I realize that it makes no sense.

Like the other day, I was looking for a new frying pan I’d bought at the mall.

But when I thought long and hard about it, I realized that I hadn’t been to the mall. Then I remembered that I’d dreamed it.

No one’s gaslighting me (except myself?), and I still get confused sometimes.

So, when someone is actively being gaslit, this confusion can definitely deepen.

6) “Your memory is terrible.”

This phrase kills two birds with one stone for the manipulative gaslighter.

It’s insulting and degrading, which attacks their victim’s self-esteem, making them less likely to take measures to protect themself.

At the same time, it once again questions their conception of reality in an attempt to confuse and obscure the truth.

Even if you’re relatively forgetful, however, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually misremember things as badly as the gaslighter is trying to suggest.

7) “You’re lucky I’m here to watch out for you.”

This phrase actually sounds positive, and it could be if it wasn’t part of a pattern of manipulative gaslighting.

While it’s great to know that someone is watching out for you, it’s not a great feeling to be told that you need it.

This makes you seem unreliable and dependent on the other person, and that’s just what they want.

The phrase also suggests that you have a problem, and the only person who can help or prevent it is the gaslighter.

8) “You’re being paranoid.”

If you hear this phrase, chances are good that you’re absolutely not paranoid.

In fact, this is exactly what manipulators will say to try to cover their tracks when you actually start to catch on that you’re being manipulated.

Calling a person paranoid devalues their perspective and questions their sanity in one go, so this is a favorite phrase for gaslighters to use on their victims.

9) “This is why nobody can stand you.”

Have you ever heard someone tell you this?

It could come from a caring friend trying to set you straight about your behavior, and in that case, it may actually be helpful.

But if it comes from someone who’s using it as an insult, they’re definitely trying to control you.

You surely believe that some people like you, so when they deny this and say otherwise, they’re trying to manipulate your reality.

Not only that, but phrases like this are also designed to make you distance yourself from others so the gaslighter can gain even more power over you through your isolation.

10) “Everyone agrees with me.”

When a gaslighter uses this phrase, they’ll use it in the context of questioning you and your perspective.

The idea behind it is that they use the power of a group to gang up on you and try to reinforce their other claims. That’s why they’ll likely use this phrase with “You’re crazy” and other similar assertions.

While this phrase could be an all-out lie, it could also have some truth to it if the gaslighter has been lying about you elsewhere.

If they’re spreading rumors that you’ve done things that seem off-balance and unhealthy, they may very well receive comments from others that suggest you’ve lost the plot.

Final words

If you recognize these ten phrases that indicate you’re dealing with a skilled gaslighter, it’s time to get away to protect yourself.

Even if it isn’t now, this behavior can become abusive and incredibly damaging to your sense of self.