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“You always act so crazy, I didn’t mean it like that!”
How many of us have had something like that thrown in our face about something we feel or what we did? Often, the very thing we are being accused of is what the other person is doing. It’s a painful insult, and when it comes from the person we love, it hurts most.
So, is there a way for how to respond to someone who is projecting?
By responding appropriately, you can bring order to the situation, speak up for yourself, and stop the emotional abuse that stems from being the victim of repeated projecting.
Here’s how to respond to someone who is projecting and make a calm and centered stand in the face of a devious verbal assault. But first, let’s look at what projecting means and why a person may project what they are feeling and experiencing onto you.
What Is Projecting?
Projecting is a form of gaslighting, where the person who projects uses their own behavior and twists it so it seems like you provoked them or that you are the one to blame. As the name hints, projecting means they paint you with the light of their own sin.
When someone projects, they accuse you of something that is out of character for you, which you then doubt yourself about. You may wonder if you have actually done what they said or if you are losing your mind (#YouAren’tCrazy).
The truth of it is that people attack what they don’t know and what they see inside themselves and feel disconnected with inside. So, if you are being attacked by someone and accused of something, the chances are strong that this is actually something that the person fears or that they are in conflict with inside themselves.
Of course, knowing what projection is doesn’t make dealing with it any less painful, though it does give you clarity on what is happening.
Reasons Why a Person Projects
People use projection as a weapon to stop others from questioning them or confronting them about something they are doing that’s upsetting or wrong.
You may want to talk to your boyfriend about his wandering eyes, but instead, he will accuse you of dressing coquettishly and flirting with other men.
He may appear hurt and broken, making you wonder if you have indeed appeared flirty to him. Projection is how he takes the attention away from the issue you wanted to raise.
Another instance of projection may be when you want to confront your partner about their spending habits, only to have them tell you they feel so unloved by you. They may even use this as an excuse to explain why they spend so much money – to ease their emotional needs.
In the end, you will believe you are actually the cause of the problem, forgetting it doesn’t account for their spending habits at all.
So, in essence, here are the main reasons why someone is projecting:
9 Steps on How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting
If you have someone in your life who projects onto you, then you probably know there’s a wrong way to respond. Whatever you’ve said seems to inflame the situation and make it worse, especially when you try to point out that they are in the wrong and not you.
So how should you actually respond to a projector?
Follow these 9 steps when someone is projecting:
1. They Are the Problem, Not You
Firstly, realize the person who is projecting is the problem, not you. Use this step to realize the person who is projecting is the one who has a flawed self-image they are projecting onto you.
This step helps you realize you are not the guilty party.
Of course, you need to be mindful and aware that the person is projecting, so keep a journal to help keep your facts straight. You can look back at your notes whenever you doubt yourself and remind yourself that you aren’t the problem and what the person is saying isn’t true.
2. Don’t Argue or Get Angry at Them
Secondly, try to keep emotions out of the issue. Don’t argue or get defensive (or angry) as this will only fuel their projection tactics.
Often a projector-type person will get a release or thrill out of seeing you upset when they project on you, so stay calm and don’t rise to their insults or taunts.
3. Establish or Re-Establish Some Boundaries
Someone who projects onto others does so repeatedly, and they don’t respect boundaries.
Set boundaries by telling them (when they project) that you hear them, but you won’t discuss their projections as it simply encourages them to further transfer the blame. If you must, walk away so you don’t engage with them any further.
4. Distance Yourself from Them
It’s draining to be around someone who projects as you have to deal with these guerilla tactics all the time. At this point, it’s better for your mental health to distance yourself from them (even if only for a while) so you can help clear your mental windshield from their bug-splatter.
5. Accept That You Won’t Change Them, and They Likely Won’t Ever Change
While you are away from the person who projects, you may realize that this person will never change. Trying to change them or make them see they are projecting their fears and insecurities onto you will only lead to more stress and trauma.
However, you can still love them and be there if they require support—just keep a healthy distance. With someone who projects, it’s vital to keep a safety bubble around you, never allowing them direct access to your heart and mind.
6. Defuse Their Assault with Genuine Caring
Not all projectors are actually out to get you, and some may do it without realizing. They are driven by their own fears (which is usually an irrational force), and they may accuse you of being unsupportive, which is when you should offer real help.
Assure them you hear their concerns, you see them, and you are there to help them. However, ensure you are safe from further accusations to protect yourself.
7. Deflect Their Projection with Concern
Understand that someone who is projecting may actually be calling out for help. Their projection may actually be a reflection of their own mental state. If you love this person, it may be worth it to gently and with caring curiosity ask them if they are well and express your concern for their well-being.
When you show concern for their well-being, you achieve a more neutral dialogue and they might be calmer to speak with.
8. Use More “I” Statements
Someone who projects is already in a near fight-or-flight state of mind, and they won’t respond well when you use “you” statements, as these make them feel like the target of attack.
Instead, use “I” statements to help them see you as a person and understand you aren’t targeting them. With someone who projects, it’s vital to not make them feel targeted or subject to passive aggression.
Tone of voice when you speak to the projector is vital as this will create a meaningful way to work through the projections and insecurities.
9. Stop Self-Confronting and Validate Them
Finally, it’s important to stop confronting yourself with someone else’s projections. You know inside you aren’t guilty of their accusations. The person who is projecting onto you is insecure and lacks any support network, which is why they lash out in a passive-aggressive way with projection.
You may start judging yourself, believing their harsh words when you should be assessing and rebuilding your inner self. Stop self-confronting and start validating them and you.
Comforting words like “I see you and I feel your pain, but I am not a devious person and I am not guilty of the things you say I did” will go a long way to validate the person who projects AND validate yourself as the non-guilty party.
Final Thoughts on How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting
Being the victim of projection can be devastating to deal with on a daily basis. You end up questioning everything you know about yourself, and the result is a total destruction of your sense of self.
Knowing how to respond to someone who is projecting is an investment in your own self-preservation and growth. Remember that you are not the problem and you aren’t guilty; distance yourself if you must (and can), establish and enforce healthy boundaries, remain calm, validate them and yourself, use “I” language, and offer genuine help.
People who project their experiences and feelings onto you can also be gaslighting you. So why don’t you check out these 37 gaslighting examples and phrases that manipulators use and see if any of them resonate?