We’ve all been in the discussion that gets…serious. Meaning, you need to know what you’re talking about…or do you?
In debate, there are various techniques which can be applied, whether you are informed or not. One such maneuver is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is when you make your opponent think their view on the facts is so wrong, that they don’t understand reality. Gaslighting is one of the best ways to diminish not only the opponent’s argument, but to diminish the person themselves into a mushy pile of self-doubt.
You could go the way of Trump, who is one of the most shameless and obvious gaslighters, by simply answering, “I never said that.” when everyone knows you did.
But, there are more subtle ways…
So, without further ado, here are the top three ways to gaslight:
Yes, the tried and true, good old sarcasm. Used best during the years of teenage angst, when you knew so much about the world that you could be self-assured to say the opposite and everyone could tell what was obviously true. (You see what I did there? That was sarcasm).
Sarcasm is great in belittling an opponent and make them question themselves: “Wait, am I off on this?” It’s also good because it makes you feel better, reassuring your world view.
It’s important to remember that sarcasm is best served like revenge: Cold. This dispassionate delivery makes it clear you’re unemotional and clearheaded about what you believe, even if you’re not.
A close cousin to sarcasm, character judgments are a good way of changing the subject without appearing like you’re changing the subject. You can slightly shift the discussion to make the other person defend their values, which distracts from the issue and makes it personal.
This is very easy to do, because most people what to defend themselves, and when they do, it becomes a battle of the ego! And if you’ve got the bigger ego, congratulations: You’ve already won. Because when you demolish an ego, you take a person’s self-confidence. Gaslighting!
This one is an oldie but goodie, and is also related to personal attacks, in that it shifts the focus off of the issue. Whataboutism is perhaps more powerful than character assassination because while it also distracts, it distracts to a similar situation. Thus being related, it seems like you’re still on topic, when you’re just circling it.
Whataboutism is great because it’s limited only by how many related examples you can come up with. The discussion can be derailed into endless territories, where comparisons are superficial. And if you have enough stamina, you can exhaust your opponent into a stupor of self doubt: “Uhh, what were we talking about?”
The trifecta of gaslighting: Sarcasm, Character assassination, and Whataboutism
With these tools in your kit, you can win any argument, with minimal knowledge and research of the issues. And in the process, you can send your opposition into a tailspin of crippling self-doubt.