I had read the term many times on the Internet from people who’s been vocal on certain topics which for different reasons turn out to be controversial.
I encountered this term for the first time when I was being vocal about an IT conference in Norway which I thoughts had a highly inappropriate name (post in 🇳🇴 Den Norske Dataforening sitt manglende gangsyn) . During this action in trying to get them to change, I was exposed to this behavior for the first time.
When I say first time, that’s a guess, as before this happened I didn’t know there was a word for this. Luckily I had someone by my side who, sadly, had a lot of experience in these sort of things. She helped me develop a vocabulary for what was going on. I didn’t know what it was, just that the situation was very uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do. Without the guidance and help from someone who had words to describe what was going on I would have been lost and probably made a lot of mistakes and failed to grasp the situation.
Having experienced the meaning of this word, gaslighting, I took it seriously and started reading and digging deeper on this topic of manipulation. Slowly developing a vocabulary and a frame of reference for which to interpret what had happened. This work has been very valuable when I have found myself in similar situations, lost without the words to help me describe what I was experiencing at the time. The technique of gaslighting is not just something which happens during discussions on the Internet. Once you become aware of it you will see it in public discourse and also in your own work place. Using your knowledge, on subjects such as this one, to help others better understand their situation becomes a natural thing. You want them to be empowered to find the best way for them to deal with their situations.
Improved communication with a larger vocabulary
The power of words also applies to the art of engineering. One of the things you will notice as you have spent years in this industry is that your vocabulary grows as you go along. You can choose to use this power for good, such as improve the quality of communication. However, there are also ways to use this newfound power to alienate and put up gates preventing others from participating. It is entirely up to you how you use the power of words.
I remember being introduced to the concept of refactoring early in my career. It was mind blowing at the time as up until that time I would just change things and make random improvements. Going about changing my code using a vocabulary others could relate to and understand helped improve the quality on conversations about code. The word refactoring has been deluded to mean “change random stuff”, however it was defined as this:
Its heart is a series of small behavior preserving transformations. Each transformation (called a “refactoring”) does little, but a sequence of these transformations can produce a significant restructuring. Since each refactoring is small, it’s less likely to go wrong. The system is kept fully working after each refactoring, reducing the chances that a system can get seriously broken during the restructuring.https://refactoring.com/
By using the terms and words outlined it enables effective and clear communication to those who share this vocabulary. It means you can spend less time describing the intent and the objective outcome, as it is implicit in the name of the refactoring. A senior developer would use this language, but in the presence of less experienced people they would take the learning opportunity to help them learn the words and their meaning. To use the power of words as a tool for education rather than gatekeeping is essentially what separates a mature developer from someone who is in it for their own benefit only.
Words carry meaning, power and the ability for you to easier grasp your current situation. Establishing a vocabulary is an essential part towards learning more about something. This is the same in all walks of life. Acquiring the words to best describe things within a domain enables you to gain a broader and deeper understanding. It is the first step enabling you to learn more.