How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting?

What is psychological projection and how to respond to it correctly? We tried to figure this out for you!

Written by Meredith Hayes. Updated on How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting

People are socially oriented beings and whether we want it or not, we have to communicate with other people every day at work, at home, and in many other places.

And if you are socially active enough, you will definitely notice one very curious type of person quite many times. Such people tend to place the blame onto others and/or they have a habit of noticing different bad features of character in others whilst they have those features as well.

What these people do is called a psychological projection, and in close relationships (e.g. in a family or with your partner or a spouse) this can lead to many problems and issues with your communication.

This is why people often wonder how to handle projection and what causes it at all.

This is why today we decided to help you out a bit with this issue and we did small research for you. We did our best to learn more about the psychological projection and several aspects connected with it.

Thanks to this, today you are going to learn not only what projection is and what makes it appear.

We will also tell you how to respond when someone is projecting, and how to stop other people from doing this.

Finally, you will learn a few obvious signs that will tell you a person is a psychological projector.

How to Respond to Psychological Projection?

Let’s be honest and confess that most of us have not just been at the other end of the projection, but we have also projected our own thoughts, feelings, motivations and desires onto other people.

It is common that most of us have picked up that projecting thing ever since we were little children.

We got used to doing that because our parents, siblings, and other adults around us often used to project their unconscious feelings, thoughts and emotions onto us.

No matter the reason, people often want to know how to deal with psychological projection when it is directed onto them.

The reason is simple: when you are being projected on, you feel frustrated, confused, angry, and embarrassed. And it’s no surprise since the one who is projecting usually does it in a quite aggressive manner!

Projections are often angrily hurled as an attack because those who are doing it judge their own feelings, emotions, actions and desires as wrong, bad, shameful or even dangerous!

This is why, when someone projects their insecurities on you, there is no sense in trying to reason with that person, convince him or her, explain that they are wrong, teach, blame, shame or do anything like that.

If you do so, it will only lead to even more aggressive behavior allowing the projector to do what they initially were intended to – to blame you for their own flaws.

What is the best thing to do when someone is projecting, you may be wondering? Well, first of all, remember the major rule of thumb: don’t explain, apologize or try to convince!

No reasoning will help. It will only make things worse. Instead, the best thing you can do is to say something like “This is not about me‘ and disengage lovingly.

How to Respond to Psychological Projection (2)
Credits: Milkos, via

Let the projector know that your heart is open for them, but you are not going to take the bait!

To be aware and be able to tell when someone is projecting, you need to understand what stands behind those projections in fact.

You can check out a few common projecting phrases that such people use to see what they really mean by saying hurtful words to others:

  • “You’re selfish.” Translation: I’m being selfish and I don’t want to admit it or deal with it.
  • “You’re judgmental.” Real meaning is: I’m judging myself and I feel ashamed of this, so it’s easier to blame you instead.
  • “You are angry.” Translation: That’s me who is angry, but I judge myself for being like that so I won’t admit it.
  • “Everything is about you.” Real meaning is: I’m behaving like a narcissist and I don’t want to realize this.
  • “You are crazy.” Translation: I can’t control my feelings or actions, this is why I can’t let myself know this.
  • “You’re abusive.” Real meaning is: I’m behaving in an abusive manner now and I refuse to deal with myself.

Remember that, when you are being projected by someone, you must not take their bait! Once you do this, that person who is projecting is off the hook.

As soon as you make an attempt to discuss the situation, to explain, argue, defend, teach, attack or project back or any number of other ways of protecting against the projector, the projecting person is allowed now to do exactly what he or she wants to – to focus on what you are doing rather than on themselves.

How to Respond to Psychological Projection
Credits: shisuka, via

How to Stop Someone From Projecting

To stop someone from psychological projection, first of all you need to know how to show someone that they are projecting at all. Of course, if a person is projecting in an argument, it might be difficult to make him or her listen to you and adhere to what you are saying.

This is why in the majority of projecting situations, those who try to reason the projectors fail and end up being blamed and shamed by those who transfer the blame onto others.

This is why the rule of thumb for you in any situation is to stay highly aware of yourself and control your emotions.

You need to clearly understand what you are feeling right now, and whether those feelings are truly yours.

Only then you will be able to tell the difference between yours and another person’s feelings or emotions.

And what about stopping others from projecting? Well, the best thing that can be done here is to not get involved.

Yes, simply like this. If you notice that the person starts projecting towards you, you can say something like “This is not about me” or “This is your opinion”, and leave the conversation.

This must be done confidently and calmly to not let that person any chance for escalating the conflict.

How to Stop Someone From Projecting
Credits: DragosCondreaW, via

Related: How to Respond to a Mean Text Message?

Psychological Projection. What Is This?

If you want to know how to deal with projection, you need to be aware of what it is.

To state it shortly, projection is a type of psychological defense mechanism. We tend to subconsciously use it in order to protect our psyche.

Projecting means that we attribute our unacceptable thoughts, emotions, and desires to people around us, both those whom we know and strangers.

Some psychologists claim that psychological projection is an inevitable part of our lives, but it is also one of the points on the list of so-called red flags in relationships!

As it often happens, we notice in other people things that we possess, and we hate someone’s features only if we subconsciously don’t tolerate them in ourselves.

This is why if someone is projecting anger, he or she is actually projecting their own traumas onto others. Simply speaking, this person does not notice anger in himself or herself!

When people are projecting their suppressed or denied thoughts, feelings or emotions onto others, it means that they don’t like those in themselves.

Psychological Projection. What Is This
Credits: tonkung, via

Thus, what they do is that they are trying to sort of transfer those features onto other people thus making them “guilty”. Of course, such an approach will always make a projector feel way better about himself or herself! It’s them who are bad, not me!

However, projection is not as harmless as it might seem to some of you at first. In fact, it prevents us from fully experiencing our lives and the world around us.

It does not allow us to fully feel the moment and enjoy it! Psychological projections keep us from experiencing and acknowledging our deepest feelings and understanding why we have them.

As a result, we pass those onto other people as projections. And if those people are highly sensitive or vulnerable, they might believe that those projections are true.

What Does It Mean To Project? A Psychological Defense MechanismWhat Does It Mean To Project? A Psychological Defense Mechanism

Related: How to Respond to a Narcissist Text?

What Makes People Project?

Definitely, you might want to figure out why people start projecting at all. Well, usually, the most common reason, both conscious and unconscious, is that a person projects when he or she can’t admit that they were wrong about something.

For some of us, the idea of admitting we were wrong is a natural thing to do.

It is a sign that you are psychologically mature and you are willing to grow and learn from your mistakes that you made in the past.

However, if an adult person shifts the blame onto others, it makes them seem like they are stubborn. For the majority of us, it is pretty hard to admit fault in fact. It takes some courage to hush your ego and admit your mistakes.

What Makes People Project
Credits: shisuka, via

Signs That Someone Is Projecting

To be able to stop projection that comes from others, you need to know how to spot it in a person’s words at all. This is why the crucial thing that matters here is to always stay aware and be able to see and notice when something starts getting wrong.

It is pretty easy to notice when other people are projecting, and we will provide you with such signs soon,

But now we would like to teach you how to notice this tendency in yourself since this is a bit more complicated to do.

So grab a few obvious signs that show you might be projecting:

  • You feel overly hurt or defensive, or sensitive about something that another person has said or done.
  • You feel that you are highly reactive and quick to blame.
  • It is rather difficult for you to be objective, to get perspective, and stand in the other person’s shoes.
  • You notice that a certain situation, as well as your reactivity, is a recurring pattern.
Signs That Someone Is Projecting
Credits: shisuka, via

So in case you do notice one or several of these symptoms, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the behavior that I don’t like in that person something that I also can’t stand and I don’t tolerate in myself?
  2. In what way or ways do I act like this person?
  3. What kind of stories am I telling myself about this person or situation?
  4. Who or what does this person (or this situation) remind me of?

If you teach yourself to calm down and revise your thoughts and feelings, as well as behavior this way, by asking these questions, you will be able to accept all of your feelings instead of trying to get rid of them or project them onto others.

Moreover, it will help you to become more tolerant and flexible towards other people.

Signs That Someone Is Projecting
Credits: shisuka, via

In comparison, it is way simpler to notice when someone else is projecting on you.

If during the communication process you suddenly notice that the person you are talking to comes up with something about you that is absolutely ludicrous and it does not fit who you are at all, then he or she is definitely projecting!

Usually, in such situations, you will feel embarrassed or frustrated. Projecting people tend to overreact to events and they can often make you feel like you are being expected to “take on” something that is not yours.

So, now you know a bit more about such a thing as psychological projection. We have told you why it appears and how you can define it in other people’s behavior and communication.

In addition, we have shared a few handy and rather simple tips and life hacks with you that can help you to stop the projections that come from others.

Finally, we do hope that now you will be able to spot the signs of projection even in yourself and you will manage to take it under your full control.

Like that, your communication with others will become calmer and more mindful bringing you more pleasure than disappointment!

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ How to prevent projection?

Try mindfulness, learn to be self-compassionate, question your thoughts, talk to a therapist.

⭐ What is a narcissist projection?

This is a projection that comes from narcissistic persons.

⭐ How to deal with projection defense mechanisms?

Find out what makes you insecure/anxious and examine the traits that you like least about yourself. Then view your behavior objectively to see whether you’re projecting.

Written by
Meredith will assist you with your health and family problems. She is a professional therapist who has huge experience in the field of family health care.
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