Gaslighting is a communication technique in which someone causes you to question your own version of past events. Most times, it’s meant to make you feel like you’re losing your grip on reality. In its milder forms, gaslighting creates an unequal power dynamic in a relationship. But at its worst, gaslighting can actually be considered a form of mind-control and psychological abuse.
It can occur in all types of relationships, from a "friend" telling you you're overreacting about them gossiping about you behind your back to a co-worker insisting that he's doing all of your team's work (when, in fact, you're the one working overtime) to a real estate agent who's supposed to be your lifeline during your home search. Here are four signs your agent might be gaslighting you.
1. They Speak in Absolutes
There's a fine line between persuasive salesperson talk and manipulation. We got this tip from real estate agent Rona Fischman, who, in an article for 4 Buyers Real Estate writes, "Where sales-speak borders on gaslighting is when hyperbolic 'fact' gets thrown around by agents." Examples of this would be your real estate agent saying things like, "everyone knows that everything sells on the first weekend, you just can’t have a home inspection" or "No one has ever lost money in real estate in Newton." This kind of talk, according to Fischman, "makes buyers feel confused, powerless, and more inclined to buy in order to get it over with."
2. They Ignore Your Budget
You gave your real estate agent a hard and fast budget of $400,000. But she keeps showing you places that are closer to $650,000. Not only is this disrespectful to you as a client, but it's also a way for her to wear you down, increasing the chances that you'll start to think your original budget was crazy to begin with. (Remember: agents are incentivized to make bigger sales, because they get bigger cuts). Bottom line: Even if your dream home doesn't exist within your budget, your agent should be your ally, figuring out ways to make your numbers work.
3. They Mock Your Must-Have List
A common tactic of a gaslighter is to challenge your perspective and lash out when you bring up an issue that matters to you. For example, you share your wish list of home features and their reaction leaves you questioning your emotions and feelings. Especially in a home-buying situation, it's OK to have strong opinions and emotions, and if you find yourself hesitating to share those based on how your agent has responded in the past, they might be gaslighting you. You're making one of the biggest decisions of your life and no one—even someone who's an expert in the field—should make you feel embarrassed or silly for voicing your wants and needs.
4. You Just Feel Like Something's Off
Trust your intuition. If you feel like there's something strange about your interactions with your real estate agent but you can't quite pinpoint what's strange, go with your gut. Chances are, you're getting bad vibes for a reason, and it's better to nip it in the bud by bringing it up (or finding a new agent) than to brush aside your feelings and get burned further down the line.
If you suspect this is happening with your real estate agent (or in any of your relationships, really), here are some tips for stopping a gaslighter in their tracks.