Projection is just another tool in a narcissist’s tool box that is used perpetually to devalue, manipulate, control, and make their targets crazy. Projection is basically what happens when the narcissist accuses you of what it is that they themselves are doing in order to take the responsibility off of themselves.
If you are accusing a narcissist of being irresponsible, they will project that you are the irresponsible one or maybe even a third party. I used to have a paralegal who often always projected her irresponsibility onto others. Whenever she messed up, she would always come up with excuses by projecting the blame onto someone else. For narcissists, projection is a part of how they live their lives- it’s a part of their makeup.
Narcissists do this because they have an incredibly fragile sense of self. They cannot take responsibility for anything that’s going to make them look bad in any way or make them have to look within at their flaws/faults. This is why they don’t genuinely apologize. Instead, they project or even deny, dismiss, and/or deflect. This is true for when you catch them in a lie as well. Narcissists will do anything they can to protect themselves and their access to narcissistic supply – the one thing that they need in order to survive.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist in a negotiation setting in particular, it is important to prepare for the projection that will come. Your first inclination when faced with narcissistic projection might be to fight back and to defend yourself. If you do this, you will only perpetuate the chaos by getting down into the mud with them. Once you are there, it’ll be incredibly difficult to get out. This is exactly where they will want you to be. Instead of defending yourself, I want you to stop, observe, listen, and take a breath. Try not to do anything. Once you’ve found your composure it is important not to take the bait and simply respond with something like, “I understand that that is your position,” or “I can see that you’re upset.” If you respond with this or another disarming phrase, the narcissist will no longer have anything to project onto. Their words won’t stick. This will save you lots of energy, chaos, drama, and pain in the long run.
I know this feels counterintuitive but it is vital in “fighting” back against their awful projection tactics. The narcissist will never truly take responsibility and so, unfortunately, it is up to you to stop them in their tracks.