Ep 48: Gaslighting and Emotional Manipulation
Stephanie Sarkis, author of Gaslighting, explains how parents should handle emotionally manipulative teenagers, partners, and ex-partners. She also shares strategies for preparing your teen to deal with emotionally manipulative people in their own lives.
Full Show Notes
When her article on gaslighting for Psychology Today went viral, Stephanie Sarkis knew she’d found a topic people were interested in. Millions of people read and shared the piece because they identified with being in the type of relationship Stephanie wrote about, where subtle manipulation tactics make you feel bad about yourself.
That’s what inspired her to write the book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People–And Break Free.
Gaslighters are often very charismatic and they start by flattering you and telling you how incredible you are. Next, they try to isolate you from others by telling you not to trust your friends and family members, or that you are unsafe without the gaslighter around to protect you.
The best thing to do when you encounter people like this, Stephanie says, is to cut them out of your life, block their phone number, block their emails, block them on Facebook, and stop reading their letters.
However, if the person is your spouse or ex-spouse and you have kids together, it’s very difficult to cut them out of your life. So I asked Stephanie what to do in these situations.
She taught me how to avoid saying things to your kids that can be used as ammunition by the other parent. She also revealed how to deal with “Flying Monkeys”, or people that the gaslighter sends to talk to you and tell you that you’re over-reacting and you should give the gaslighter another chance.
Another important topic we covered is what to do to prepare your teenager for dealing with emotionally manipulative people. Stephanie emphasized the importance of warning them about the signs of gaslighting early, before they get involved with a gaslighter. Because when a teenager gets into a relationship, especially with a gaslighter who is telling them how great they are, it’s a very difficult time to “talk sense to them”.
She talked about what you can say to warn teens about emotional manipulation ahead of time so that they will have their defenses up when they see this type of flattery being used on them.
She also explained how to set and enforce healthy boundaries with your teenager.
Another interesting topic covered in this episode is how to communicate your own needs to your teenager in a non-confrontational way. Stephanie has some great tips for how to get teens to help out and act more respectful.
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. Warn your teenager about emotional manipulation tactics:
“If you’re on a first date and the person starts talking about how you’re the most wonderful person they’ve ever met and they’ve never felt this way before, that’s a red flag. It feels great to hear those things but we have to really pay attention because that’s a manipulation tactic.”
2. When you come home and find dirty dishes in the sink:
3. Get your teen to clean their room when company is coming over:
4. Appreciate the small progress your teen is making to reinforce it:
5. When your teen lies to you, use humor:
6. Call your teen out when they speak disrespectfully to you:
7. When your teen gives you the silent treatment, wait until they are talking again then say:
8. When your teen isn’t talking to you, say this:
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Make You Teen Feel Safe Talking About Emotional Abuse:
There are people who will make your teen feel bad about him or herself either with obvious verbal abuse or with more subtle unconscious emotional manipulation. Talking about the more subtle forms of abuse, when we get a feeling someone is crossing the line but aren’t 100% sure, is difficult. It feels vulnerable to share about these experiences. But you want your teen to talk to you about this stuff so you can coach them on how to respond. One solution is to share your own story of a time when you suffered emotional abuse of some kind. Or when you realized someone was making you feel good only so they could use you for something. Write about a time when someone used emotional manipulation on you. Then choose a day this week and make a plan to speak with your teen and tell them the story.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries with Your Teenager:
About Stephanie Sarkis
A therapist in Tampa, Dr. Stephanie Sarkis specializes in ADHD, anxiety, & gaslighting. She is a bestselling author, American Mental Health Counselors Association Diplomate, and a Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Child and Adolescent Counseling – one of only 20 in the U.S.
Stephanie is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family and Circuit Civil Mediator, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and a National Certified Counselor.
She is a blogger for Psychology Today and The Huffington Post.
Dr. Sarkis has a PhD, EdS, and MEd in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Florida. She maintains a private practice in Tampa, Florida, and she has written a total of seven books.