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A Lesson In Gaslighting

There's a psychological technique called gaslighting which is incredibly potent especially in persuasive situations. A few nights ago I was watching TV, just flipping around aimlessly, and came upon an old episode of M*A*S*H. In this episode, BJ is bored and to entertain himself he cooks up a plan for amusement at Winchester's expense. BJ takes a pair of Winchester's pants and in their place replaces them with a pair two sizes too large. When Winchester eventually puts the pants on, BJ asks if Winchester is okay. He mentions that he's noticed him looking a little under the weather and suggests that he maybe has a virus because he's looking too thin.

Later, BJ replaces the pants that are too large, with a pair that are way too small. When Winchester changes again, BJ casually notices how heavy Winchester has become, which has a dramatic effect on Winchester, prompting him to go on a crash diet. Hawkeye, having observed the interactions, asks BJ, "What's next?" "Tomorrow he gets taller," BJ responds. This illustrates the very essence of gaslighting. In this instance, gaslighting is a harmless prank.

Gaslighting also has the potential to be quite dangerous and cruel when used with malice. So why am I writing about it? So that you might protect yourself from it should someone try to use it against you. With all of the persuasion techniques I teach, know that they are incredibly powerful tools and when used without integrity will get you nowhere fast. They should always be used ethically and with integrity. The term gaslighting came from the 1944 film of the same name and came to be defined as the ruthless manipulation of a person into believing something that isn't true. In 'Gaslighting' the husband tries to convince his wife that she's insane so that she'll have to be institutionalized, thus getting her out of his way. His subtle manipulations cause her to doubt her own grasp on reality. Using gaslighting in a way that is not unethical could include understanding how your affluent prospect interprets their own reality. The technique of gaslighting has five main strategies.


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