It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who is projecting on you without making the situation worse.
But there are some hard rules for handling people who you know are projecting their insecurities on you.
Here is a look at what projecting is, some common examples, and how you should respond when someone is projecting on you:
What Does It Mean When Someone Is Projecting on You?
Projecting is when someone takes their own insecurities, thoughts, or emotions and attributes them to you.
It’s a defense mechanism that allows the person to avoid looking at their own flaws or shortcomings.
For example, someone who is projecting might say, “You’re so lazy,” when they’re really the ones who are lazy.
Or, they might accuse you of being dishonest when they’re the ones who are being dishonest.
Projecting can range from seemingly innocent comments and misunderstandings to a full-on psychological assault similar to gaslighting.
Related – 9 steps to exposing a gaslighter.
Examples of Projection
Projection is a more common defensive mechanism than you may realize and once you’re aware of it you’ll see it more often.
Some common examples of people projecting on someone else are:
- A person who is always critical of others is projecting their own insecurity.
- A person who is always accusing others of being dishonest is projecting their own dishonesty.
- A person who is always calling others lazy is projecting their own laziness.
- A person who is always saying negative things about others is projecting their own negative thoughts.
How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting – 5 Tips
If you think – or know – someone is projecting their own insecurities and faults on you, how you respond to them is important.
You want to respond in a way that makes them think about how they’re treating you, realize their own insecurities, and most importantly stop projecting on you.
Here are my top five tips on how to respond to someone who is projecting on you:
1. Realize that They Have a Problem, Not You
The first step in responding to someone who is projecting on you is to realize that they have a problem, not you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the situation and start to doubt yourself, but don’t.
If you are sure that what they are saying is not true and you can see it’s a reflection on them, don’t bend to their will or what they’re saying.
2. Don’t Get Angry or Argue with Them
Getting angry or arguing with someone who is projecting on you will only make the situation worse.
It’s important to stay calm and not get defensive.
If you want to stand up for yourself, the goal is to make them realize their own insecurities, not to get into a fight with them.
So, keep your cool, point out that they’re wrong and why they’re wrong in a calm and collected manner, and don’t go back and forth with them.
3. Set Some Boundaries Going Forward
The issue with someone who projects on others is that they continue to do so until they either get help or something major happens to give them a wake-up call.
So, for the good of your relationship it’s important you set some boundaries with them.
Tell them that you get it, whatever they’re projecting on you you’re aware that’s how they feel but you don’t want to talk about it anymore.
If they do bring it up, tell them you’re not going to get into it or you’re simply going to walk away.
This doesn’t solve the issue, but it’s probably the best you’re going to get with some people and it’ll help ensure you stay friends.
4. Distance Yourself from Them if They’re Persistent
There are some people who just can’t or won’t stop projecting on others no matter what you do.
In these cases, it’s probably best to distance yourself from them.
It doesn’t have to be a permanent thing and you don’t have to cut all ties, but it’s probably best if you take some time away from them.
This alone might make them realize how their behavior is affecting you, and at the very least it’ll give you a break from them.
5. Accept that You Probably Can’t Change Them
This is the most frustrating thing about projecting, especially when it’s coming from close friends or family members you care about.
It’s important to accept that you probably can’t change them and that’s okay.
You can still love them and be there for them, but spending a lot of time and energy trying to change them will be like talking to a brick wall.
If they want to change, that’s great, but it has to be their decision.
The bottom line is that someone who projects their own insecurities on others is usually doing it because they’re unhappy with themselves.
Asking them to stop or pointing out that they’re wrong isn’t going to do anything to help them address the root of their issues.
Is Projection a Form of Gaslighting?
Projecting is often compared to gaslighting because in both cases someone is trying to make you doubt yourself or your reality.
In some ways, they’re similar, but there are also some key differences.
Gaslighting is a more intentional act where someone is trying to control and manipulate you.
Projecting is more of a subconscious defense mechanism that someone uses to protect themselves from their own insecurities.
Gaslighting is also a form of emotional abuse, while projection is not.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who is gaslighting you, it’s important to get out of that situation.
But if you’re just dealing with someone who projects on others, there are ways to deal with it that don’t involve leaving the relationship – it’s typically more manageable.
So, I would say yes projection is a form of gaslighting, but it’s very different and it is important you don’t get the two mixed up!
Image credits – Photo by Matt Koffel on Unsplash
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.