How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting

Have you ever had someone accuse you of doing something you didn’t do or of feeling a certain way when you don’t? If so, then you may have experienced projection.

This can be a challenging situation to be in — especially when the person projecting is someone close to you. How should you react? How do you respond to their statement?

According to experts, here are effective ways how to respond to someone who is projecting.

Dr. Bryan Bruno

Bryan Bruno

Founder and Medical Director, Mid City TMS

Be genuine; refuse to be drawn into a heated argument

Projection is, in most cases, when an individual projects their unacceptable thoughts and feelings as coming from someone else rather than themselves. 

For example: if someone feels deeply guilty about something, they may project that guilt upon someone else, attempting to make them feel worse about themselves. 

What to do when someone projects onto you:

Think about the situation critically

The first step in handling a case of projection is to understand when it is happening. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Are the feelings or actions this individual is accusing you of truly your own? 
  • Does this individual seem unreasonably upset about something? 
  • Is this individual upset at you for something that normally would not affect you or your relationship with them? 

Taking a moment to think about the situation critically is a great first step to preventing their projection from affecting you.

Keep your distance if possible

You can’t forcibly change someone’s behavior. The best thing to do when you encounter a serious case of projection is to distance yourself from the situation and the individual responsible. 

Refuse to add fuel to the fire

If you’re in a confrontation you can’t easily escape from, you should avoid getting agitated and drawn in by the aggressor. 

A primary purpose for projection is for the individual to distract themselves from their unacceptable feelings, and engaging in a heated argument is an effective way of doing so. 

Genuinely offer to help

One of the few effective ways of disarming an individual projecting their feelings onto you is to genuinely offer help. Assure them that you are not the one hurting them, and offer to help find what really is.

Refusing to be drawn into a heated argument and being genuine is one of the only ways to deal with someone who is projecting. 

While you should attempt to distance yourself from the situation to protect yourself and your mental health, if the projector is someone important in your life, you may want to help them:

  1. Calm down the argument, 
  2. assure them you aren’t trying to hurt them, 
  3. and offer help in finding the root cause of their anger. 

Carrie Mead, LCPC

Carrie Mead

Psychotherapist, Maryland Therapy by Carrie

Acknowledge your truth and gently approach their state

Projection is a psychological term that originates with Sigmund Freud and has remained a popular concept in modern psychology. 

Projection can be defined as recognizing your own most negative personality traits in others rather than recognizing them in yourself. 

For example, you may detest someone you perceive to be emotionally needy or quick to anger. But rather than recognizing that you sometimes display those characteristics, you instead make negative comments about how another behaves or how they impact you when they act this way.

Your partner or a family member may say, You really should take better care of yourself, you seem so depressed these days, and you’re letting yourself go.” 

You, however, may notice that your mother hasn’t attended to her hair and make-up the way she once did and rarely laughs and smiles anymore. She may be projecting her own insecurities about her mental and physical health onto you. 

If you feel her comments are misdirected, you may say something like: 

Mom, I’ve been well, and I continue to take Pilates classes and meet up with my friends every Friday for happy hour. I even just got a new kitten who is so fun to be around. However, I am concerned about you. You just don’t seem like your old self. Is everything ok?” 

You can turn the comment into a caring question by acknowledging your truth (you are happy and well) and gently approaching your mother’s state.  

No one wants to be attacked, accused, or told how they feel, so you must approach this gently and with curiosity

If your mother dismisses your comment, which is quite possible, you can leave it there for some time. 

The important thing to take away from the conversation is that your mother has given you some insight into her inner world; she feels depressed and is letting herself go. 

Projections give us rich and accurate information about another person’s inner experience, even if that person cannot identify it as their truth at that particular time. 

In this scenario, you now have an inclination about how your mom is doing and what she might need.

Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD

Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios

Certified Psychiatrist, The Pleasant Mind

Be mindful of their internal workings

People project because they are fighting an internal battle with themselves. By no way can they become honest with themselves because it is either painful or not pleasurable at all. 

They do not want to face their fears and insecurities because of guilt and shame. Thus, they get busy finding someone to blame and hand over their faults and mistakes.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Shame, Guilt, and Remorse?

In reality, they need a punching bag for catharsis and purging. If you are to respond to someone projecting, you need to be mindful of their internal workings. 

Knowing the person in-depth goes to a great extent in controlling and responding to this sort of manipulative behavior.

Here are ways to respond:

  • Create and set a healthy boundary between yourself and the person. Let them know the acceptable forms of behavior. Be clear about what they can expect in the relationship and what else will be absolute “no.”
  • Never place yourself in a dilemma about your own abilities. Remember that when someone is projecting, they try to safeguard themselves by blaming things upon you. Thus, you are not at fault. Do not misguide yourself by thinking that you have committed a mistake.
  • Never become a punching bag for others’ faults if you know you are on the right track.
  • You can confront, disagree, or show your disapproval to the person if the situation demands such behavior.
  • Communicate openly with the person and let them know that you outright disagree with their false claims.
  • Avoid arguing with the person who is blaming you because it makes the case look worse than before.
  • Sometimes you need to ask the person directly about their motives and what they expect from you.
  • Never try to prove them wrong because it will aggravate the problem further.
  • A person who projects is fearful and hurt in some way. Be patient with them. Sometimes listening to their emotional woes can actually help to resolve the issue. 

Related: How to Deal With Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries

If the projection tendency becomes a habitual response and interferes with the person’s daily routine and relationships, it is advisable to visit a therapist and seek support from them.

Jacob Brown

Jacob Brown

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center

Respond with openness and curiosity

Let’s imagine that your partner accuses you of being angry when they are angry at you. Simply denying that you are mad usually only results in an argument because they honestly believe that you are angry at them. 

They feel your anger very clearly. So, simply telling them that they are wrong about their own feelings rarely works out well. 

A better approach is to respond with openness and curiosity. 

  1. Reflect on their feelings. “You feel like I’m angry at you.” 
  2. Take a moment to see what feelings you are having. You might be feeling sad, and they are misinterpreting it as anger. 
  3. Tell them the feelings you are having. This may start resolving the issue. 
  4. Show curiosity. What am I doing that makes you feel like I’m angry? 
  5. Acknowledge your behavior. “I understand; because I’m not talking, it feels like I’m angry.” 
  6. Talk about how you are feeling. “Actually, I’m feeling really unhappy about what happened when I saw my brother. I’m not angry at you; I’m feeling sad about my relationship with my brother“. 
  7. Acknowledge why they could feel your anger. “I understand why you’d think I’m angry at you. When I get sad, I tend to pull away. I’m sorry for not talking about it.

Jillian E. Hopkins, LPC

Jillian E. Hopkins

Licensed Professional Counselor, Choosing Therapy

Base it on your relationship with the person and the intensity of the projection

We all have had that experience when it feels like someone is talking at us rather than in conversation with us. This is a clue that they may be projecting.

Based on your relationship with the person and the intensity of the projection, here are some suggested responses with the best tone: 

  1. Kind and gentle: I see that you are feeling (i.e., angry, scared, the need to correct me…), but I just don’t think this is about me. I care about you enough to tell you that.
  2. Kind and direct: Thanks for your thought, but what you’re saying doesn’t ring true or resonate with me at all.” 
  3. Curious: I’m wondering if what you’re saying to me right now is more about something you’re trying to figure out (or process) personally because I’m pretty sure this has absolutely nothing to do with me.
  4. Firm and direct: Use a good boundary setting if the projection feels like a personal attack. “What you’re saying is (i.e., hurtful, inappropriate, unhelpful, mean…), and you need to stop. Otherwise, I have no interest in talking with you right now.” 
  5. Disengage. When all else fails, duck and let what the person is trying to project onto you fly over your head. You don’t need to catch or carry someone else’s unprocessed stuff, especially if it hurts you in any way. 

In summary, the more self-aware we are, the more skillful we’ll be at responding (vs. reacting) to the person who, most likely due to their lack of self-awareness, is doing the projecting.

Dr. Cornelia Gibson, LMFT, Ed.D.

Cornelia Gibson

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Clinical Director, Agape Counseling Center and Network | Author, “Surviving Broken Promises”

Use more “I” statements and fewer “you” statements

“Who me? Couldn’t be.” When someone is projecting, they are subconsciously saying things that are true for themselves while applying them to you. 

However, they don’t see it like that, and it can be highly frustrating talking to someone who is projecting their feelings onto you. 

One of the best ways to communicate with someone who does a lot of projecting is to use more “I” statements and fewer “you” statements. 

Using “you” statements is commonly used when communicating with someone who does a lot of projecting, but it’s not the most effective use of time. 

Using “you” statements contributes to defensive behavior and a lose/lose situation. 

An example of an effective I statement could be, I hear you. That doesn’t sound like me at all.” 

Such a simple statement shows active listening, it’s not or should not be confrontational, and there’s no agreement, no blaming, and nothing for the other person to be defensive about.

Carla Corelli

Carla Corelli

Narcissistic Abuse Survivor | Mental Health Blogger

Avoid taking on their emotion

Human beings interpret the world based on their experiences and emotions. We project because we often don’t want to face our own truths. 

If someone is projecting, it means they are putting their own issues onto you in an attempt to avoid dealing with them. 

It can be frustrating and even confusing to deal with someone who is projecting, but there are some things you can do to help defuse the situation and manage the person.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings. Let the person know that you understand that they are feeling upset or frustrated. This will help them feel heard and validated.
  2. Ask questions. Try to get to the root of why the person is projecting their emotions onto you. What is going on in their life that is causing them to react this way?
  3. Avoid taking on their emotion. Just because someone is projecting their emotion onto you doesn’t mean you have to absorb it. You can still maintain your own emotional state.
  4. Set boundaries. If someone is repeatedly projecting their emotions onto you, it might be necessary to set some boundaries. Let them know that you will not tolerate being treated this way and that they need to find another outlet for their emotions.
  5. Offer support. If the person is going through a tough time, offer them your support. Let them know that you are there for them and want to help in any way you can.

Projection is a defense mechanism that we all use from time to time. It can be challenging to deal with, but if you respond in a compassionate and understanding way, it can help the other person feel better and possibly even help resolve the issue they are dealing with.

Shonna Chiles

Shonna Chiles

Holistic Health and Spiritual Wellness Advisor

Practice empathy and kindness

Many, if not all, of those with the self-awareness and insight to gauge when someone is projecting have been in that person’s shoes. 

One of the best things you can do when faced with this situation is to remind yourself what it feels like to experience this fear and practice empathy. 

When someone feels defensive and seeks to lash out, this behavior can be quelled when met with compassion and kindness. This is because often, it isn’t the response the person lashing out is expecting. 

Related: 30+ Reasons Why Kindness Is Important

Use this piece of advice within reason, however.

If you are dealing with someone who never takes accountability for their actions or emotions and tends to veer toward narcissistic tendencies, your best course of action would be to set boundaries.

Related: 60+ Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist

Set boundaries and protect the relationship by knowing when to walk away

One of the best responses to repetitive behaviors that seek to dismiss self-involvement and genuine acknowledgment of emotions is to set boundaries. 

This may look different to you, depending on your circumstance. Usually, we tend to care about the behaviors of others and how they affect us when we bond with the person. 

I have clients who always tell me that they can’t set a boundary because the person is family or a long-standing friend that feels like family.

By setting boundaries, you honor your need to be emotionally respected and protect the relationship by stepping away before it gets ruined in the heat of emotion. 

In my own experience, I had a close family member with whom I had to cease contact for an entire year. I’m happy to say now that we are both better for it. 

Setting a boundary may look like: 

  • Removing yourself from the environment where the conversation is happening 
  • Or having an honest conversation about being unable to hold space for these kinds of discussions and why. 

In situations where this behavior has become repetitive and even emotionally abusive, the best thing for your mental health is to step away and cut ties completely. 

Melissa Mellor

Melissa Mellor

CEO, Hey U Human

Remember that it isn’t about you

This might be tongue-in-cheek, but we first need to realize when someone is projecting that this isn’t about you at all. This is about them. 

In theory, this is easy to understand but very difficult not to take personally. When people project their crap onto you, it’s easy to feel: 

  • Hurt
  • Frustrated
  • Betrayed
  • Confused 

We need to understand that humans are innately selfish. People are concerned with their own emotions, boundaries, and experiences before they are concerned about someone else’s. This isn’t a bad thing. 

Even people who are seemingly selfless are doing it to fuel their own need to be needed or valued. And being selfish is ok. We are allowed to put ourselves and our emotional and mental health first in our own life (a topic for another time). 

Related: Why Are People Selfish?

The issue is that we make our priorities another person’s problem (hence projecting), which can create a vicious cycle of: 

  • Unmet needs
  • Not feeling valued
  • Not being loved
  • Not being prioritized 

But remember this, their actions are not about you—they are about the other person. 

Acknowledge and process your emotions

We understand that it’s not about us. Check! Now the real question is, what do we do with those feelings or responses to projecting? 

Here’s the thing that humans are missing the mark on—cognitively understanding your emotions is not the same as feeling and healing your emotions. 

Right now, we don’t know how to heal without placing blame. We don’t know how to grow in our power without taking it from someone else. 

Healing is a 100% personal journey, but we invite other people into our experience (unknowingly). This isn’t anyone’s fault—this is how society has taught us to respond to emotions. 

All the experts tell us to: 

  • Create boundaries 
  • Speak your truth 
  • Remove yourself from the situation 

We are running from our problems to heal ourselves. It’s not at all the same thing. We need to start acknowledging, processing, healing, and releasing the emotions that are in our bodies.

This does not mean speaking your truth and is not the same as wallowing in self-pity. This is an empowering process to release the core emotions due to the projection. 

At our company, we teach the Rapid Relief Technique that helps to get to the core emotion (fast and in private) so that you can heal it and no longer be adversely impacted by other people’s behavior. 

Remove those expectations and simply see someone for who they are 

Once you properly process your emotions — at the core — you can start seeing other humans for 100% who they are (and not who you want them to be). 

This allows you to: 

  • Fully understand other humans
  • See them for who they are
  • Respect their journey
  • And not be impacted by their decisions

This sounds very fluffy, but when you have done your own work, it enables you to see through other people’s external behavior and see all of them—how they shine and their holes. 

As a society, we decide how people “should” be in our lives. Anything different than our expectations creates a gap (and thus disappointment). 

Being able to remove those expectations and simply see someone for who they are — flaws and all — allows you to be completely rock solid in your own life. You are no longer impacted by what another person does or doesn’t do.

Related: How to Let Go of Expectations & Why It’s Important

Mel Williams

Mel Williams

Relationship Expert | Lifestyle Coach, Healing Is Sexy

Make sure to avoid using “you” statements

Find a way to pause the conversation and for both of you to take a moment to cool off. Someone who is projecting usually feels the need to defend themselves by attacking or putting others down. 

Make sure to avoid using “You” statements and instead say, “I feel this (the way you feel) when I don’t get this (desired action)….” 

If the projection continues, realize that you may be involved in a losing battle that will see no winners because the other person will be hell-bent on a win-lose argument where there can only be one winner—them. This is beyond you. 

The most important thing is to remember that this isn’t about you. The other person’s perception of reality isn’t your reality or the actual reality, but it feels very real to them. 

Keep a cool head and not engage in the drama

If you’re experiencing this with someone you love, exercise patience and understanding. 

If it’s with a co-worker or acquaintance, you may want to consider keeping all communications short, direct and focused on solely one thing or purpose at a time. Stick to the facts and don’t risk mentioning opinions to avoid being accused of projecting or inviting them into the conversation.

Doing these will help you keep a cool head and not engage in the drama.

Brianna Antionette

Brianna Antionette

Transformation Coach | Author, “Ascension

Reject what they are saying and know that their anger does not reflect who you are

A boat cannot sink without water getting inside.

Imagine you are the boat, and the hatred that is being spewed from the opposite party is the water. Your boat is your energy field, and you are fully responsible for maintaining its balance.

You cannot sink without accepting what that person is saying. You can reject the water coming from this other party by standing in your power and responding as follows:

  • “I would be happy to revisit this conversation once we are both at the headspace of being calm and respectful towards one another.”
  • “This is not a part of my journey today, and I would like to refrain from carrying on this conversation.”

Know that the anger inside them does not reflect who you are. 

Have peace in mind knowing that perception is projection and what is internally going on within their minds is not your responsibility.

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Relationship Coach | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More“

Use this information for your own gain and do not argue or fight back

If someone is projecting, don’t take it personally. Instead, think of it as insight into where their mind is. 

It is like having a spyglass in their mind—they are confessing to you what they are doing or thinking. Use this information for your own gain and do not argue or fight back. Remain calm.

Depending on the situation and your personality, you can either laugh or just smile and say “thank you.” Then walk away. 

Realizing that you’re in a situation where someone is projecting is key. That way, it’s easier not to get defensive or mad. Think of it as them telling on themselves. 

If you just listen, you will learn.

Lovelia Horn

Lovelia Horn

Physical Therapist and Animal Adoption Advocate, Every Creature Counts

Every person on this trip we call life has their own set of problems, and we all deal with them uniquely

It might be challenging to cope with your troubles and the issues of someone projecting simultaneously, so it’s essential to know how to react when dealing with both. 

Here’s what you can do:

Prevent passive aggression in your comments and be succinct

Getting into a fight with someone transferring their bad sentiments onto you is a bad idea. Because this is already a rather unpleasant scenario, you should do your best to avoid throwing wood into the fire. 

You should prevent passive aggression in your comments and be succinct and to the point. If you can’t provide a favorable response, it’s best to leave.

Related: How to Stop Being Passive Aggressive

Suggest counseling as a last resort

If this problem persists with a person close to you, you should suggest counseling as a last resort if the person in question cannot recognize the nature of the issue. 

A therapist has the education and experience to determine the causes of these difficulties. They may also assist your loved ones in recognizing other concerns in their life and developing constructive strategies for dealing with those issues.

Rakhi Oswal

Rakhi Oswal

Life Coach | Founder, Edrio

Ensure that you portray your intention and not hurt the person

It is better to keep a distance from people who seem to project.

However, if you are not able to keep away or the one projecting is closed and beloved, you can try the following to respond:

  • Try confronting and having a meaningful conversation
  • It is better to avoid arguments and be prepared on how you can shift from arguments to having a discussion
  • Ensure that you portray your intention and not hurt the person
  • Know what they want and how you can help them
  • Conclude the conversation instead of leaving it in the middle

Hannah Dworkin

Hannah Dworkin

Recruiter | Leader, USScrapYard

When someone is projecting, you first need to understand what is happening with them before getting angry and making the situation worse. 

Acknowledge, confirm, and advise

Once they finish speaking, it is time for you to respond—calmly and wisely. And this is very important, or else whatever the situation is, you would only escalate it. 

Once you respond calmly, you will be able to reason with them. Your response should be in three main parts: 

  1. Acknowledging what they are saying so that they feel they are being heard
  2. Confirming that you understand and relate to their feelings
  3. And advising them on a more suitable way to handle the situation


I am sorry you feel that way, and I know that [repeat what they have said minus the projection, in other words, let them know that you know what is bothering them]. 

I truly understand where this is coming from, and I am aware that you feel [show them the true feelings that they are hiding inside, maybe insecurity, or fear of failure, etc., but it is important not to sound patronizing].”

At this point, if you acknowledge what they said and validate their feelings, they will become calmer as they feel they are understood. It is important not to proceed to that last part unless they are calm. 

But don’t you think we could have handled this conversation better? Instead of saying [repeat something they have said that includes their projection], you could have told me [tell them a better way of saying it without projection]. Because what you just said made me feel [explain how you felt].” 

This will generally help the one who is projecting to see their mistakes without you confronting them with the projection, as this would only escalate the issue.

Mike Falahee

Mike Falahee

President, Marygrove Awnings Co.

There are different strategies people employ to deal with someone who’s projecting onto them. The worst ones involve arguing and provoking them further. Of course, doing nothing is perhaps the worst of all.

Distance yourself from the projections emotionally

First things first—you need to distance yourself from the projections emotionally. 

If you let baseless accusations hurt you and disturb your emotional well-being, then the person projecting onto you is succeeding in their goal, making you miserable just because, deep down, they are unhappy about themselves.

Don’t let projections come near you—recognize them for what they are, but do not acknowledge or dispute them.

Keep in mind that projections are not the truth

In the spirit of distancing yourself from the projections, always keep in mind that projections are not the truth. 

Don’t let these wild accusations make you doubt yourself for a single moment. Know your self-worth, and don’t let projections come near you or your sense of self.

Wait until their soliloquy is at an end, then say your part

As I said, letting projections run rampant in your relationship is not a good idea. They must be addressed, but you need to wait your turn to do it. 

Don’t interrupt the person projecting onto you or call them out on it. Wait until their soliloquy is at an end, then say your part.

It’s best if you can offer understanding:

  • Validate their experience, 
  • show you understand them, 
  • and then proceed to explain that you’re not the cause of their pain. 

Confront their preconceived notions and give them facts. They’re certainly going to respond better that way, and you might begin to solve all the issues.

Kiran Gollakota

Kiran Gollakota

Co-founder and CEO, Lightyear Health

Reflect their projection right back to them

I’m direct: I say, Sorry, what did you just say about yourself? Okay, maybe not that direct, but I see no need to beat around the bush—reflect their projection right back to them. 

I may say something as straightforward as, I think what you are saying is more of a reflection about how you are feeling than it is about the actual situation. Or even, more basically, I think you’re projecting.” 

There is no shame in it; it’s something most of us do from time to time. By stating it directly, I am showing them another side to what they think about the situation without suggesting there needs to be conflict or shame.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

I have noticed many people projecting or displaying their feelings as if they were someone else. Though it’s most likely not being done on purpose, as it’s frequently done as a defense mechanism, we’ve probably all been guilty of projecting at some point in our lives. 

What can we do or how can we respond if someone is projecting?

Get to the root of the issue

If you believe that someone is projecting, it can help get to the root of the issue. 

For example, if your friend makes a mistake, as we all do, and immediately blames someone else for their actions, they may be projecting. Attempt to explain to the person that they aren’t in trouble for their mistake and that it is unnecessary to place blame. 

If they don’t feel as if they will get in trouble, they may be more apt to be reasonable with you.

Be encouraging and supportive 

When someone negatively projects onto someone else, they may just need a person to lean on. By letting them know that you can be that person, they may push their negativity to the side. 

It may take time for them to realize that you are there to help them, so make sure to give them the time they need.

Speak with the person more in-depth and find out what they feel

Sometimes people project because they aren’t good at communicating. You can speak with the person more in-depth and find out what they really feel and possibly even why they feel that way. 

Then together, you can communicate so that there is a greater understanding, which may help the projection subside.

Simply walk away

Sometimes, another person’s projection might be too much. Those are the times when you might need to simply walk away. 

Regardless of who is projecting, make sure your departure from the situation is completed: 

  • Professionally
  • Calmly
  • Appropriately

Kindly excuse yourself by saying, “I apologize, but I need to step away. I do not feel comfortable at the moment.” 

It’s always acceptable to protect yourself and your feelings. Whether someone is purposely projecting to hurt you or doing it unknowingly, make sure to put yourself and your feelings first. 

You do not need to be projected upon to a point where you feel uncomfortable or threatened.

Karl Christian Misulis

Karl Christian Misulis

Chief Executive Officer, Misulis Group

Be radically caring and understanding

When someone is upset, going on the defense will only escalate tension. Instead, when it is clear that there’s nothing that you did that caused them to behave this way, be caring about it. 

Ignore the accusations completely

Completely ignore the accusations and speak to the fact that they’re upset and that this situation is challenging. Continue to completely ignore any projected comments which aren’t helpful, and offer to work together to solve the problem.

Why does this work? The fact is that they’re upset, and when they are projecting, they may not know the cause, so they lash out at the closest thing in front of them. 

That’s why it is important to ignore the accusations because their brain is creating false logical pathways to explain their emotional state; it has nothing to do with you as an individual. It was only “the wrong place at the wrong time situation.”

Being caring and talking straight to them makes it easier for them to calm down and become less ruled by emotion. 

When they are calm, logically break down the assumptions

Once that’s the case and their feelings have gone down, you can more logically challenge the assumptions made from the projection. 

You might be surprised how often people who are projecting can realize that it did have nothing to do with you once they are calm. Just as when people calm down from a fight, they’ll say things like, It had nothing to do with you.”

CJ Xia

CJ Xia

VP of Marketing, Boster Bio

Confront and disagree

If you allow yourself to be used as a punching bag by an abuser or bully, things will spiral out of hand. The worst-case scenario is for projections to come true in actual life. 

You’ll need to know how to reply to someone projecting with a confrontational tone and outright disagreeing in these situations.

Here are five examples of how you can maintain your composure: 

  • “That is not the case, and I will not take the blame.” 
  • “You have a point of view, but it is not the truth.”
  • “Stop transferring your unhappiness onto me.” 
  • “This isn’t about me.”
  • “I disagree with your conclusions.”
  • “It’s time for you to do some self-reflection.”

Ascertain that the person is aware that you are not the one who is harming them

Making it evident that you are not the source of their pain is an excellent method to reply to someone who is projecting. 

When someone is battling left, right, and center demons, projection can be unconscious, and you may find yourself caught in the crossfire. 

Make it apparent that you are an ally here to help rather than harm. In truth, you’re not to blame for the pain. 

Here are five strategies to deal with someone who is projecting: 

  • “I’ll always have your back, no matter what we go through as friends.” 
  • “I understand you’re in a lot of pain right now, but keep in mind that I’m not your adversary.” 
  • “We can only get through this if we stick together. Please do not push me away.” 
  • “Right now, the world may be against you, but trust me when I say I am on your side.” 
  • “It’s all water under the bridge at this point. Everything will be fine as long as you know I’m on your side.”

Joel Jackson

Joel Jackson

Co-Founder, Lifeforce

Call out the person who is projecting

Whenever someone is projecting onto others, it’s usually because that person is feeling a sense of shame. An ashamed person has a hard time looking into a mirror. Even still, the hard truth needs to be said by someone.

Say something. Call out the person who is projecting—whether it’s directed at you or somebody else. The person who is doing the projecting will probably get defensive. That person might even get angry.

At some point, hopefully, reality will sink in with that person. Maybe that will happen:

  • Later that day, after a cooling-off period
  • The next morning after they sleep on it
  • Next week or next month or next year

Either way, a person who is projecting isn’t going to change unless someone has the courage to have that confrontation. Tough love is the answer sometimes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I respond with humor to someone who is projecting?

Humor can be a helpful tool to diffuse tense situations, but it’s important to keep in mind the situation and the other person’s feelings. In some cases, humor can be perceived as dismissive or insensitive.

However, if you have a close relationship with the person and feel comfortable doing so, humor can help lighten the mood and take the focus away from their projections.

Is it ever okay to project onto another person?

While projection is a common defense mechanism, it’s important to take responsibility for and acknowledge your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

If you find yourself projecting onto another person, take a step back and try to identify the underlying emotions that are driving your behavior. It may be helpful to talk to a therapist or trusted friend about your feelings and process them in a healthy way.

Is projection always intentional?

No, projection isn’t always intentional. In many cases, people may not even be aware that they are projecting their own thoughts and feelings onto others. However, it’s important to address projection when it occurs, regardless of whether it is intentional or not.

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