11 Gaslighting Phrases Used by Narcissists – And Powerful Responses To Shut Them Down

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that distorts your perceptions and makes you question your reality. It invalidates your experiences, emotions, and thoughts. When used by abusive and narcissistic individuals, gaslighting can be an especially powerful tool to get a victim to comply to their demands and remain in the abuse cycle. 

The best way to resist gaslighting is usually to ground yourself in your own reality and cut ties with a gaslighter so they no longer influence the way you view yourself and the world. You certainly do not have to explain yourself or defend yourself to a manipulator or continue communicating with them, as it can lead to further invalidation and emotional abuse when you do. 

However, for those who feel the need to empower themselves and self-validate before immediately disengaging from the narcissist and ending crazymaking conversations, there are also options to shut down gaslighting right before ending conversations with narcissists. These optional “closing lines” can be used in situations where you feel the need to stand up for yourself before you disengage completely and feel safe enough to do so. You do not want to use these phrases to continue the conversation or continue engaging with the narcissist but use them only as closing statements before cutting ties. You can also use them internally to affirm in your own mind the reality of the situation even if you do not use them in conversations with narcissists. 

The responses to gaslighting below can help to empower yourself while ending conversations with gaslighters and narcissists if you desire to do so. Do not use these responses to gaslighting with narcissists who are physically abusive in any way or may escalate. It’s important that after using these phrases, you immediately cut contact – whether by blocking this person, hanging up the phone call, or making an excuse to leave the in-person encounter, if there is any. Avoid using these responses in-person unless you have a safe witness and rely on these more for text, phone, and e-mail conversations that can be more easily documented.

Keep in mind that these responses to gaslighting are not intended to change the narcissist or the narcissist’s behavior. They are meant to validate your experience and help you defend yourself. Whether told to the narcissist directly or affirmed only in your own mind, they are only meant to center yourself in the manipulation that is occurring and hold onto your truth before you exit the conversation. Always keep your safety and specific circumstances in mind and consult with a therapist or law enforcement official if you fear you may be stalked or harassed by a narcissist. 

Gaslighting Phrase #1: You’re too sensitive.

Affirm or respond any of the following:

  • I am not oversensitive, you have a pattern of being insensitive and are defensive to being held accountable. 
  • What I feel is a valid reaction to your outrageous behavior. I don’t have to defend or explain how I feel any further to you. 
  • I am allowed to feel and express my emotions, and I am not going to argue about how I feel. Since you can’t accept my feelings, this conversation is over. 

Gaslighting Phrase #2: You’re crazy.

Affirm or respond any of the following:

  • I am not crazy, I am discerning and you’re finding it difficult to manipulate me. There’s a difference. 
  • Identifying a problem or bringing up a concern doesn’t make me unstable. Raging or calling me names when I do bring up a problem is unacceptable. 
  • Not interested in your gaslighting or emotional invalidation. 
  • I am not sure how you came to that conclusion, and I don’t have the time or energy to hear how you did. 
  • Since you’re not willing to listen to those concerns without pathologizing me, we don’t need to discuss this further. 
  • I don’t have to defend or explain myself to you. Since you can’t speak respectfully, we won’t be speaking at all. 

Gaslighting Phrase #3: No one else has ever had this problem with me.

Affirm or respond: Even if that were true, that does not make the concerns I bring up invalid. But I also know for a fact or suspect that it is not true and that others have had issues with your behavior. This is a pattern I’ve witnessed in you and I am allowed to bring it up. We both know I am not the problem here. Since you persist in repeating this unacceptable behavior, we’re through. 

Gaslighting Phrase #4: You need to let things go and let the past go! You don’t know how to forgive. 

Affirm or respond: I don’t have to let things go if you’ve harmed me. You’re not the arbiter of how I process or heal from things. If you didn’t want me talking about the past, you shouldn’t have repeated it in the first place. 

Gaslighting Phrase #5: You’re reading too much into things.

Affirm or respond: Whether you think I am reading into things or not, I trust my intuition and what I am experiencing. I won’t allow you to dismiss my feelings anymore. 

Gaslighting Phrase #6: What about when you did/said this (or another false accusation)?

Affirm or respond with any of the following: 

  • If you can’t stick to the subject at hand and stop diverting, this conversation is over. 
  • Whatever issues you think you have with me, that is irrelevant to the conversation we’re having right now. 
  • That’s not what happened, and you know it. If you can’t stay on topic, I am done talking. 

Gaslighting Phrase #7: I think you’re the narcissist and abuser here!

Affirm or respond: You can think what you want, doesn’t make it true. I am not the one with the pattern of abusive and manipulative behavior. There’s been too many red flags on your part, and we’re done here. 

Gaslighting Phrase #8: You’re so selfish and self-centered!

Affirm or respond any of the following:

  • You’re projecting. That describes you better than it does me.  
  • Setting boundaries doesn’t make me selfish. On the other hand, you wanting me to only cater to your needs while neglecting mine is selfish behavior, so we’re through. 

Gaslighting Phrase #9: You’re so needy/insecure. 

Affirm or respond any of the following:

  • I have basic needs that you’re not meeting, that doesn’t make me needy. Communicating my needs and boundaries is what a secure person actually does. If you’re not willing to meet those basic needs, there’s no need for us to talk anymore. 
  • If you’re coming on very strong and then suddenly act cold, I am going to have a normal human reaction to it. What’s not normal is you trying to make me feel insecure on purpose. 
  • That’s an interesting accusation coming from you, since you required my constant attention and contact with me in the beginning. I don’t think we need to go into this, since you obviously like to twist the truth. 
  • Since you set up the baseline for being attentive and loving in the beginning, only to withdraw, I think you’re the one who’s engaging in problematic behavior. 
  • I don’t have the time for your mind games. 

Gaslighting Phrase #10: You’re impossible to deal with. You should be grateful I put up with you (or a similar criticism or insult said in a sarcastic or patronizing tone). 

Affirm or respond any of the following:

  • I don’t remember asking for your feedback, especially blatantly false feedback. 
  • You don’t get to speak to me in that tone. 
  • Your sarcasm is unnecessary and it doesn’t make you superior. It just makes you disrespectful.  
  • If being “impossible” means I am hard to manipulate and that you don’t like being held accountable for your behavior, then I accept the compliment. 
  • I have not been the cruel one in this relationship, and I won’t be accepting your cruelty any longer. 
  • I am not the one who’s been disrespectful. We both know what you’ve put me through, and I am not accepting it any longer. 

Gaslighting Phrase #11: I can’t do this anymore, you’re always trying to start an argument or a fight.  

Affirm or respond with any of the following: 

  • Having a conversation is not a fight unless you make it one. If I bring up something heinous you said or did, that doesn’t make me the problem. Since you’re not dealing with the actual problem, this discussion is over. 
  • I think we can agree there is no solution to this as you’re not willing to listen to what I have to say. 
  • If I can’t have a civil discussion with you about issues that have simple solutions, I think the only solution is to stop talking. 
  • Yes, let’s not do it anymore, because it’s not my responsibility to teach a grown adult basic decency and respect. 

About the author

Shahida Arabi

Shahida is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University. She is a published researcher and author of Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse and Breaking Trauma Bonds with Narcissists and Psychopaths. Her books have been translated into 16+ languages all over the world. Her work has been featured on Salon, HuffPost, Inc., Bustle, Psychology Today, Healthline, VICE, NYDaily News and more. For more inspiration and insight on manipulation and red flags, follow her on Instagram here.