How To Respond To Someone Who Is Projecting

How To Respond To Someone Who Is Projecting

When someone is projecting, they might not be thinking straight and will often say things they don’t mean.

However, just because they’re not feeling okay doesn’t mean they get to say what they want.

It’s useful to know how to handle the situation carefully whilst also keeping your integrity and protecting your feelings.

Follow our guide to find out how to do this and move forward from the situation.

What Is Psychological Projection?

So what does projecting mean? Projection occurs when a person feels something that isn’t true about themselves but instead attributes it to another person or thing.

For example, if you feel like you are being treated unfairly by a friend, you may attribute this to them.

Let me give you a more concrete example of projecting onto someone, consider this scenario:

Someone who projects or projects on someone will usually result in someone taking out some underlying feelings on you or another individual when it might feel a bit unwarranted.

The first step in how to deal with projection is to acknowledge that it has occurred. Once you have acknowledged that you have projected onto someone else, then you can begin to understand why this happened.

You need to look at yourself and see where you went wrong. However, this is easier said than done because you don’t feel like you’re in the wrong at the time.


How To Show Someone That They Are Projecting

Dealing with projection: it’s always an awkward situation trying to get someone to realize that they need to apologize. An easy way to do this is to leave the situation for a few days so that everyone can calm down. Especially if the projection has already transcended into projected anger, read our article on Why do I shake when I am mad?

Too many things get said in the heat of the moment and may end up coming out wrong or hurting someone’s feelings unnecessarily.

A good thing to do is to go for a walk or go for a coffee and have an honest chat with the other person.

If you know them well, which we assume you do, you will know how to talk to them and say the right thing without projecting your feelings.

Having a level of trust between you is essential so that you can start to break down any tension that may have formed between you.

By going for a coffee or a stroll, you’re adding a calm environment into what could be a normally hostile situation. This will, at least, encourage both of you to be civilized and keep you both in a nicer atmosphere.

Once you’ve passed the situation, you can enjoy the rest of your day.

how to respond to someone who is projecting

Finding The Right Thing To Say

How to respond to someone who is projecting: once you’ve had a chance to cool off, you’ll be able to think more clearly. You should try to ensure that you’re saying the right thing and being sincere.

The best way to do this is by asking questions. Ask them what they meant by their words and if they want you to repeat anything.

If they agree, then you can take it from there. If they disagree, you can explain how they made you feel and why you think talking about what was said is important.

If you’re having trouble understanding what they’re saying, then you can ask them to clarify. This allows them to explain further.

You should only respond to people who are willing to listen to you. If they aren’t willing to listen, then you’re only going to waste time and effort on someone who doesn’t understand what they’ve done wrong.

In this situation, it’s best to leave them to it, and they may realize it at a later date. If they don’t, they need to know that you’re not spineless and will stand up for yourself.

What To Do When Someone Projects On You!


When someone projects on you, it’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for what happens. You didn’t create the situation and shouldn’t be held accountable.

It’s important to remain calm when dealing with someone who is doing this and remember that you’re going to feel fairly stressed. However, this will pass within a fairly short time.

The best way to deal with someone who is projecting on you is to ignore them. Don’t engage them in conversation unless it’s necessary.

If they continue to project on you, you can politely tell them you’d rather not discuss it. They aren’t thinking straight, so engaging them in conversation may make the ordeal worse for both of you.

Remembering that you can’t control another person’s actions is also important. You can’t force them to stop projecting on you, and you can’t change their behavior.

All you can do is let them know that you won’t tolerate it and that they need to apologize or make things right again. If they refuse, you might be better off finding someone who cares about your feelings.

Why Do People Project On Me?

projecting onto someone

There are many reasons why someone might be projecting on you. Some of these include:


People often project due to their own insecurities. By pointing out flaws in others, they can divert attention away from themselves.


Projection can act as a defense mechanism. When individuals feel threatened, they might attribute their negative feelings to someone else.

Low self-esteem

People with low self-esteem may project their own perceived inadequacies onto others to feel better about themselves.


Projection can help someone avoid dealing with guilt. By blaming others, they can shift responsibility and alleviate their own guilt.

Unresolved issues

Unresolved emotional issues can lead to projection. Focusing on others’ problems is easier than addressing one’s own.


Projection can be a way to control others. By accusing someone of a negative trait, the person projecting can manipulate and influence their behavior.

Fear of vulnerability

To avoid vulnerability, people may project their own weaknesses onto others. This helps maintain a façade of strength and control.


Denial is a common reason for projection. People might project their faults onto others to avoid admitting their shortcomings.


Envy can lead to projection. When individuals are envious of someone, they might project their negative emotions onto that person.

Lack of self-awareness

A lack of self-awareness can cause projection. People may not realize they’re projecting their own issues onto others because they’re unaware of their feelings and emotions.

However, it could be something completely different, in which case, the best thing to do is talk to them and try to understand why they are acting the way they are.

We could all sit around all day and try to wonder what other people are feeling, but that would only result in added stress and confusion for us.

Some people have a difficult time expressing themselves, and others find it hard to read other people’s emotions. These people often end up projecting onto others.

This means that they attribute their own emotions to another person. For example, if they feel angry, they may take that anger out on you, despite doing nothing wrong.

Types of Projection

In the broader field of psychology, it is recognized that projection is not always negative, and different types of psychological projection have varying effects on our mental health.

Complementary projection, for example, is a benign form of psychological projection wherein individuals assume that others share their views and opinions. This behavior is pervasive and generally harmless, reflecting our innate inclination to find common ground with others. It shapes our expectations and colors our interpretation of others’ responses.

Imagine an account of animal mistreatment that deeply perturbs you. You naturally expect others to share your indignation, shocked when they don’t. This reflects complementary projection, where you have essentially transferred your attitudes onto others.

Similarly, our assumptions about color perception offer another instance of this projection type; we assume others perceive colors the same way we do, thus projecting our sensory experience onto them.

However, another less common form of projection is complementary projection. Individuals using complimentary projection tend to assume that others possess the same skills or abilities as they do.

It’s like a seasoned chef assuming that everyone else can effortlessly whip up a gourmet soufflé just as they can. While this might sound positive, it often leads to unrealistic expectations and accusations, and frustrations when others cannot meet these expectations.

But what strategies can we employ to deal with these projections? To start, recognition of projection as a defense mechanism is a vital first step. It prompts self-reflection, forcing us to question why we engage in such behavior.

Mental health centers and professionals often emphasize this in therapeutic settings, fostering a greater understanding of one’s mental health.

To reiterate, psychological projection is not necessarily healthy, but it remains a difficult habit to break for many. The next time you catch yourself projecting onto others, be it feelings, opinions, or skills, take a moment to ponder why.

This introspective pause can be instrumental in unraveling the mental health concept of projection and the subconscious motivations behind it.

Remember, battling the monsters in your head is healthier than projecting negative emotions onto others. Not only does this self-awareness foster personal growth, but it also contributes to a healthier, more understanding society. In this way, comprehending different types of psychological projection can indeed serve as a catalyst for better mental health.

Final Thoughts On How To Deal With Projection

In this situation, the important thing to do is to be the bigger person, ensure you don’t stoop to their level, and ensure that your integrity stays intact.

Always stay calm, it’s easy to say things you don’t mean in the heat of the moment, which can make the situation harder for both of you.

At the end of the day, all you can do is try and make the other person see how you’re feeling and make sure they see your side of the situation. It might be best to leave that person to their devices if they can’t do that.

Frequently Asked Questions for Projecting

What to do when my partner has been projecting?

If your partner has been projecting, it’s essential to approach the situation with understanding and open communication. Remember, projection is often a sign of a person grappling with difficult emotions. Encourage your partner to express their deepest feelings rather than projecting them onto you. If necessary, consider seeking help from a mental health professional who can guide both of you through this challenging situation.

How do you get people to stop projecting on you?

It can be hard to change the behavior of others, but setting healthy boundaries can limit the impact of someone else’s projections. Try to identify when someone is projecting their uncomfortable emotions or negative qualities onto you. Address the issue directly but gently, suggesting they may be projecting. If the behavior continues, you might need to distance yourself from the situation or seek help from a professional.

What does it mean when someone says you’re projecting?

When someone accuses you of projecting, it usually means they believe you’re attributing your own unconscious feelings, negative traits, or insecurities to them. It’s a common defense mechanism people use to cope with difficult emotions or perceptions of reality they find hard to accept in themselves.

What is it called when someone is projecting?

Psychological projection is when someone attributes their feelings or traits to another person. This term, coined in modern psychology, refers to a defense mechanism where we project our feelings onto others rather than addressing them within ourselves.

What are the 3 signs you are projecting?

Three signs that you might be projecting include: finding negative traits in others that you don’t like in yourself, experiencing strong emotions out of proportion to the situation, and blaming others for your feelings or problems. These are signs that you may be handling your uncomfortable emotions by projecting them onto others.

What causes projection?

Projection often results from the inability to cope with difficult emotions or to accept certain aspects of our personality. It serves as a defense mechanism to avoid the discomfort and anxiety these feelings can generate. Some personality disorders, like Borderline Personality Disorder, can also lead to a higher tendency to project.

What is an example of projection behavior?

An example of projection might be when someone frequently accuses others of being dishonest while they themselves have a history of dishonesty. This person is projecting their negative trait (dishonesty) onto others to avoid dealing with the discomfort of recognizing and addressing this trait in themselves.

Do people realize they are projecting?

Most of the time, people don’t realize they’re projecting. Projection is often an unconscious process where one’s deepest feelings or fears are projected onto others. Since this is a defense mechanism, it usually happens without conscious thought.

What is toxic projection?

Toxic projection occurs when someone persistently offloads their negative qualities, strong emotions, or hurtful behaviors onto others.

This can occur in toxic relationships and dramatically skew the perception of reality, often worsening the situation. An example is narcissistic projection, where narcissists offload their behaviors or characteristics onto their victims.

Is projection immature?

Labeling projection as ‘immature’ oversimplifies a complex psychological process. However, it can be an unhelpful way to cope with uncomfortable emotions or aspects of one’s personality, as it avoids self-reflection and personal growth.

Everyone projects from time to time, but persistent projection, especially in tense situations, can be a sign that one needs to work on emotional maturity and self-awareness.

About our Author Michelle Landeros, LMFT license# 115130
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT

Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.

Last updated: July 13, 2024