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10 Ways to Deal with Someone who’s Projecting onto You

10 Ways to Deal with Someone who’s Projecting onto You

Everyone has their own issues, and we all handle them differently while traveling this journey we call life. Some people have trouble working through their issues and end up projecting them onto others, so on top of dealing with your own issues, you have to figure out how to respond to someone who is projecting.

Projection isn’t always overt, and you might not recognize it right away. It can come from anyone around you, even the person closest to you, whether a best friend or a lover.

By the end of this post, you should be able to identify someone who is projecting, and more importantly, learn how to respond and navigate it throughout your life. This will help to preserve your well-being and to prevent negativity from seeping its way from someone who is projecting into your life.

Let’s start with what projection is and the reason why people project onto others in the first place. This will help you to determine how to respond to someone who is projecting.


What is projection?

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According to Psychology Today, projection can be described as “the process of displacing one’s feelings onto a different person, animal or object.”
In some instances, this is a defense mechanism and can commonly be observed in bullies who make fun of others about their insecurities while struggling with similar self-esteem problems.
In other instances, it can be unconscious, for instance, a husband who constantly flirts with other women while accusing his wife of cheating, or a family member who failed at university discouraging a younger family member from enrolling.
You can usually tell that someone is projecting if he/she seems to be unreasonably mad about something and it is directed at you.

Why do people project onto others?

It’s pretty simple. People project onto others because they can’t be honest with themselves about the things they are doing or dealing with, due to shame or guilt.
It’s easier to look down on others and scold others for a trait or action than it is to do so to yourself. In many instances, the projection is really how the person feels about him/herself and he/she just uses others as a punching bag.

How to respond to someone who is projecting their issues on you


01Keep your distance
Sometimes, projecting can be a sign of more negativity to come, especially when dealing with narcissistic personality types, addicts, people with personality disorders or abusers. It’s important to be able to identify when a projection is more than just a one-off thing and instead is a deeply rooted personality trait.
In these instances, whether a family member, friend or even a lover, the best thing to do is keep your distance. If you don’t, you’ll be sucked into a cycle of negativity and abuse that will do more harm than good to you and the relationship.
Be prepared to keep your distance and set a clear boundary between you and this individual. Let it be known that this type of behavior is not to be tolerated and keep yourself far away from its reach.
Note that this does not mean you’re abandoning your loved one. You can love and cherish a person from a distance, but do not allow yourself to be dragged through the mud or abused as a result of the relationship.
Give him/her some time to figure it out and come around. Hopefully, he/she will realize what this toxic trait has done to his/her relationship and will make a positive change.
Until then, all you can do is hope for the best, and send love and support from a safe distance, out of firing range.


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02Remember that projections aren’t the truth
An important thing to remember when trying to figure out how to respond to someone who is projecting is that projections aren’t the truth. Do not begin to doubt yourself or your self-worth because of this negative display.
Furthermore, do not reverse project nor try to make excuses for the abuser’s behaviour.


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03Confront and Disagree
You cannot allow yourself to become a punching bag for an abuser or bully or else it will continue to spiral out of control. The worst-case scenario is projections manifesting into real-life consequences.
In these cases, you need to know how to respond to someone who is projecting in a confrontational way and outrightly disagree. Here are 5 examples of how you can stand firm:
“That is not true and I will not accept responsibility for that.”
“That is your opinion, but it is not the truth.”
“Stop projecting your negative feelings onto me.”
“This is not about me. “
“I reject your conclusions. You need to self-analyze. “


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04Don’t argue
One of the worst things you can do when a person is projecting negative feelings onto you is to engage in an argument. This is already a pretty negative situation, so try to avoid adding fuel to the fire at all costs.
Your responses should be clear and concise, and not passive-aggressive in any way . If you’re unable to respond positively, leave.
A negative response is only going to drive the projection and make it harder for your friend or relative to recognize his/her hand in the matter.


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05Make sure the person knows that you’re not the one hurting them
A good way of how to respond to someone who is projecting is by making it clear that you are not the cause of his/her pain. Sometimes, projection is unconscious as the person is battling demons left, right and center, and as a result, you might end up in the crossfire.
Make it clear that you are an ally and that you’re here to help, not to hurt. In fact, you have nothing to do with the hurt.
Here are 5 ways of how to respond to someone who is projecting:
“It doesn’t matter what we go through as friends, I’ll always have your back.”
“I know you’re in a lot of pain right now, but remember, I’m not the enemy.”
“The only way we can get past this is if we stick together. Don’t push me away.”
“It might seem like the world is against you right now, but trust me when I say, I’m on your side.”
“That’s water under the bridge. As long as you know I’m on your side everything will be okay.”


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06Ask them what they want from you
It can feel very chaotic when a person is projecting onto you, especially if you don’t know the reason behind it. In some instances, it doesn’t make sense to waste your time and energy trying to figure out on your own what you did to trigger this type of response because you won’t come up with an answer.
The best thing you can do in some instances is confront the person head-on and ask what it is that he/she wants from you. This will hopefully make him/her question the reason behind the projection and see it for what it is or leave you alone.
Here are 5 ways you can do it:
“I’m not sure what I did to offend you, could you please explain?”
“Well, what do you expect me to do about this?”
“How can I help change the way you’re feeling towards me now?”
“What is it that I can do to make this situation better?”
“How do I fix this? “


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07Listen without judgment or interruption until the person has finished talking about what they need from you
In the instances where a person isn’t projecting onto you to manipulate or bully you, he/she might not realize what is happening. He/she might be projecting unintentionally while dealing with inner demons or external issues.
You can support your friend, relative or lover by being a listening ear. Not only should you listen to your loved one, but you should do so without judgment or interruption.
Try to understand that your loved one is in a lot of pain and not to take anything personally during this time. Your feelings can be put to the side to tend to your loved one’s fragile state.
When he/she has finished talking about what he/she needs, you can decide if you are able to provide it. You can also share any advice you may have if it is constructive and won’t make the person feel alone or attacked.


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08Validate their experience
No one wants to hear that he/she is wrong in the heat of the moment. If anything, it invalidates his/her feelings and can add more fuel to the fire.
Instead of pointing out all the reasons why he/she is wrong, try to empathize with the person. Note that this should only be done in instances where the person isn’t trying to manipulate or abuse you.
This will help your loved one work through the confusing feeling being experienced and recognize the real issue. Here are 5 ways you can validate his/her experience:
“I appreciate your stance on the matter and I can see why you feel this way.”
“I can tell that this is something you feel very strongly about.”
“You have a right to your emotions.”
“You’re dealing with a lot right now so everything you feel is valid.”
“Thank you for sharing this with me. Now I can understand why you feel this way.”


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09Offer support and encouragement
Even though your loved one might be hurting your feelings by projecting their emotions onto you, remember that he/she is human too, and hurt people often hurt others. Do not hold this against him/her.
Instead, do your best to offer support and encouragement wherever possible while he/she works through these feelings and comes to a conclusion. Your loved one will appreciate your patience in the end.
Here’s how to respond to someone who is projecting by offering support and encouragement:
“I’m here if you need me to help you work through these negative feelings.”
“You don’t have to deal with this alone.”
“We can talk about this more when you’ve calmed down.”
“Let’s try to retrace your steps and see how you got to this conclusion.”
“If you need me, I’m here to talk.”


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10Recommend therapy
If this is a recurring issue with someone you are close to, recommend therapy as a final solution if he/she cannot see the problem. A therapist is trained to identify the root of these issues and can help your loved one identify other problems in his/her life and find positive ways of handling their issues.


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Projection happens a lot in everyday life. It can cause problems and ruin relationships when it’s unintentional and it has a huge impact on another person’s life when it is done with negative intentions.
Understanding how to respond to someone who is projecting is a necessary life skill when dealing with different relationships, whether with friends, lovers or relatives. In time, you will master this skill and hopefully avoid projecting your own views or feelings onto someone else .