Unintentional Gaslighting (9 Signs Someone is Gaslighting You Unconsciously)

For clarity, gaslighting is when you make someone second-guess or question their own version of things, judgment, and even overall mental health. What's more, gaslighting can impact the victim's self-esteem, making them feel disempowered

Does that sound like something you would do to a friend, lover, or someone you care about? I didn't think so either. 

Usually, people intentionally, or mischievously do so to others because they want to have things their way or gain some benefit. However, it's not uncommon to unconsciously do it to others. Either way, it's not a nice way to treat people, whether a person is doing it intentionally with a dark motive/outcome, or otherwise. 

So, if you care about your friends, family, or other loved ones, here are some signs to look out for that'll let you know you may be guilty of gaslighting without realizing it. 

Even more, this article will also help you identify if someone, like your partner, is unconsciously gaslighting you. Because even if they never have evil motives, the outcome isn't usually pretty.

9 Signs Someone is Gaslighting You Unconsciously

1. You often second-guess your judgment

Narcissists and sociopaths are usually known to be natural gaslighters. However, the behavior is not exclusive to sociopaths and the like. When people find themselves in a messy situation, trying to hide what they've done may cause them to act this way. For example, a cheating husband may be gaslighting his wife into second-guessing her thoughts about his sneaking around activities. 

Unintentionally gaslighting, on the other hand, comes with differences from intentional ones. It isn't usually aimed at a specific goal that harms the victim. Many times, the gaslighter feels they are more experienced and know what's best for you.

So, to them, controlling or making you second-guess your judgment may just be an unconscious move aimed at helping you their own way. It doesn't make it any right just because their aim isn't orchestrated to harm you. 

2. You feel misunderstood

you feel misunderstood

Because unintentional gaslighters do not directly or deliberately manipulate others with an end game in mind, one of the subtle signs to look out for is the frequent feeling of being misunderstood when you are with them. 

It’s not unheard of that your partner or friend may not get your opinion and you may have to sometimes explain yourself again. However, if you are constantly thinking you have to do so over and again, yet feel like you are not being heard, your partner may be unintentionally gaslighting you. 

Why? He may have, over time, gotten used to having his own relationships. Perhaps, because he brings ideas that you adopt most of the time. This feeling may also take the form of being told you are wrong or your idea may not work without any cogent reason. 

If you are trying to spot this behavior in yourself, you may notice that you effortlessly, without any reason shut down others' opinions. Not because they are genuinely wrong, but because you feel your opinion is better and should be followed. 

It may even be online. Yes, your motive is not to harm and you have no gains you want to derive. But if you find that you constantly drop comments not to add or buttress someone else's opinion but to always spot what's wrong with others' comments, you might be unintentionally gaslighting.

3. You feel frustrated during communications

Have you ever felt so frustrated during a conversation that you feel like banging your head against a wall? It's possible you are in a gaslighting situation and the person isn't even making an effort to deliberately frustrate you. 

You may even feel like you are not capable of communicating clearly or start second-guessing your ability to comprehend simple things. Most times, it happens when people communicate with unresolved personal issues bugging them, causing them to express their feelings in a communication that is unrelated to the current discussion

So, if you notice you are feeling frustrated and finding it hard to have a healthy conversation with someone, it may be because they are communicating with you from a premise in their subconscious that you are not aware of.

4. They downplay their reason for lying

Whether you are trying to spot signs in others or yourself, downplaying or making lying look like it's not a big deal is another clear sign to look out for. Now, I get that we sometimes tell white lies or little lies. However, consistently telling lies to our loved ones and making them second-guess their suspicion or version of reality is mean. 

Both intentional and unintentional gaslighters adopt this behavior. While the former denies and makes the victim feel they are not sure of what they are saying, the latter may make the lie look unimportant when they are called out for it.

5. They downplay feelings

they downplay feelings

It might not involve the use of harsh or insensitive words, so it might be hard to spot. However, if a person makes others feel their outburst or reason for being upset is uncalled for or unnecessary, it may be a case of unintentionally gaslighting. 

If you think someone is doing this to you, perhaps, the reason for them behaving this way is to avoid arguments they consider unnecessary, you might want to know that they are negatively impacting the emotions of their victim but might not be aware of it.

6. Gloss over issues instead of addressing them

This sign is slightly related to the one immediately above. If you notice that you have an unresolved argument with someone, but they show up the next time as if nothing happened, it could be a sign. If they behave this way, perhaps their reason is that they don't feel it's necessary to go over and trash out a past argument or fight. They are gaslighting you without knowing. 

The normal social behavior is to address the issue, acknowledge wrong where necessary, and apologize. It's gaslighting when they make your reason for being angry unimportant or not worth addressing.

7. Feeling of disappointment

If a man frequently makes his girlfriend feel disappointed about the actions she took or the outcome, instead of supporting her positively, it might be in a gaslighting case. Usually, it may be unintentional because the use of words that make a person feel disappointed in themself may only be a way of trying to make them make better choices the next time. 

The motive may not be to abuse, cause pain to others' emotions, etc., but the outcome isn't always pretty.

8. Feeling less intelligent or inadequate

feeling less intelligent or inadequate

Being a perfectionist can sometimes make others feel they are not doing anything. If you are in a relationship with a perfectionist, they may unintentionally gaslight you by making your efforts appear like they are never enough. That's because their standard is always unnecessarily high, not because their motive is to intentionally pull you down.

9. Feeling the need to apologize

Apologizing is a social skill that helps “break the ice.” However, when a person constantly feels they have to apologize when they are with you, chances are you may be gaslighting them without knowing. For example, being a default fault-finder, perhaps because you want things to be perfect might make others offend and apologize to you all the time.


Can someone gaslight you without realizing it?

Yes, when people gaslight, it is often seen as an intentional move, however, it is possible to do so without realizing or thinking about it. For example, you may be trying to help someone make the best decision as you see it, but unintentionally shut them down by making their opinion or idea invalid.

How do you stop unintentional gaslighting?

Awareness is key. First, eliminate any form of self-esteem issues and approach the person. Let them know how you feel because of their actions. Also, acknowledge that you know they may be doing it unconsciously. However, it doesn’t change the outcome. If they don’t change, create distance.

Am I being gaslighted or am I the gaslighter?

Being gaslighted means you are the victim. Sometimes, it may require paying attention because the gaslighter may use gentle yet damaging words. On the other hand, if you are not sure if you are the one doing the gaslighting, you also need to pay more attention to how people feel or react around you. If you make them feel less confident, less sure of themselves or even frustrated while talking to you, you might be guilty of unknowingly doing the gaslighting.

Are there different forms of gaslighting?

Most people that have been a victim in relationships have reported it in various forms, which include:

Being constantly lied to.
Direct manipulation of reality.
Scapegoating (assigning blame).
Coercion (involving physical bullying or violence).

What are the traits of a gaslighter?

Some of the traits to look out for are lying, emotional abuse/manipulation, not admitting faults, and always trying to invalidate people's feelings as an overreaction or over-sensitivity.

In Conclusion

Gaslighting someone else intentionally or unintentionally is not nice and should not be done to anyone. If you feel you are gaslighting someone or someone is doing it to you, it helps if you or they apologize and consciously make efforts not to put them in such situations. 

If you are at the receiving end, awareness is essential in dealing with the abuse or impact of the situation. I hope you enjoyed the article. You can share with friends and also drop a few comments for our improvement. 

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