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Halt the Gaslighting: Practical Tips for Self-Storage Operators

More than likely, you’ve been on the receiving end of “gaslighting” at one time or another, whether it was from a coworker, supervisor or a self-storage tenant. Learn more about this common manipulation and how to respond when it happens.

Amy Campbell

September 1, 2023

3 Min Read
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Ever heard one of these phrases: “That’s not what happened,” “You’re being too sensitive” or “You made me do that”? I’m sure you have. What you might not know is these are all common gaslighting expressions designed to make you doubt yourself. Derived from a 1938 play and later the 1944 psychological thriller “Gaslight” starring Ingrid Berman and Charles Boyer, the term has gone mainstream. In fact, it was named Merriam-Webster’s word of the year in 2022.

Put simply, gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which someone causes another person to question their own perception or memory. It’s a power move and can lead to negative consequences. While it’s more common in intimate relationships, gaslighting can happen anywhere and at any time and to anyone. And that’s the problem.

Here’s an example. On Tuesday, you called a self-storage customer to speak with them about their delinquent account. You diligently wrote notes on their file after they agreed to make a payment on Friday. The day comes and goes, and no payment arrives. When you make a second call, the customer claims they never agreed to this arrangement. They might say they never spoke with you and even suggest you have them confused with another tenant. Yet your notes are clear, so what’s going on? It could be they’re confused. More than likely, though, they’re trying to gaslight you.

It can also happen with supervisors and coworkers. It could be an email they claimed they sent that you never received or a conversation they say happened that never did. Worse, someone might find joy in watching you fail so they might try to sabotage you professionally. For example, a coworker says they’ll pick up a task for you, doesn’t complete it, then says, “Sorry, I can’t do your work and mine! You should’ve planned better.”

So, how do you arm yourself against the gaslighters of the world? Try these tactics.

Trust your gut. Sounds simple but this is the very core (no pun intended) of gaslighting. The goal is to make you doubt yourself. But … you must trust yourself. Who knows you better than you? While we all have lapses in memory and our perception of something can be off, if you’re sure something did or didn’t happen, then trust yourself. This leads to the next point.

Investigate it. Now you need to double-check what your gut is telling you. In the example above of the customer who claims they never spoke with you about making a payment, you have the notes to back it up. Documentation is your best friend! Review your notes so you’re clear on the details.

Stick to your story. Once you have the facts, you can present them to the manipulator—calmly. Tell your tenant the date and time that you spoke with them. Read off the phone number and use words or phrases they said (documentation!). Gaslighters don’t like to be called out. It defeats the whole game! It’s possible they’ll continue their tirade, but they could backtrack and suddenly “remember” the discussion. Either way, you’re taking back the power by presenting your story.

Be confident. You know the truth, so don’t doubt it. While you should be assertive, don’t be aggressive. Communicate clearly, without emotion. Try phrases such as “Here’s my understanding of the situation,” “We remember that differently” or “I’m not interested in debating this.”

Keep in mind gaslighting isn’t about disagreements, a different recollection of an event or an occasional slight that someone owns up to later. It’s about control, manipulation and intentionally deceiving another. It’s an assault on your reality. Being on the receiving end of gaslighting can be unnerving, so learn to recognize when someone is doing it to you. Finally, if you need help either dealing with the abusive person or processing what happened, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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