There is a narcissist in your life. It’s unfortunate and you no doubt wish it were not the case, but it is. There is a narcissist in your life and you have little choice but to interact with them.
Are you doomed to live the rest of your life as a pawn in their never-ending game? Do you have to endure their abuse? Will they always have a hold over you?
No. No. Most definitely no.
The narcissist may be in your life, but they do NOT have to be in your head. The method below requires practice and you won’t get it right first time, but, when used consistently, it will put distance (mostly emotional, but also physical to some degree) between you and your abuser.
It is known as the Gray Rock Method. The basic idea is that you embody all the thrill and excitement of exactly that: a gray rock. The type of rock that you wouldn’t look twice at. The type of rock that remains ignored and unnoticed as you walk on by.
Who Should Use The Gray Rock Method?
The most effective way to deal with a narcissist is to go no contact. Cut them out for good and prevent any form of contact whatsoever. Change your number, your email, block them on social media, and even move home if you have to.
Sometimes, however, this is simply not feasible. There are situations in which contact with a narcissist is unavoidable. That’s where this method comes in handy.
If you find yourself in any of the following situations, Gray Rock is likely to be your best option:
- you have a child or children with a narcissistic ex
- you have a narcissist colleague or boss in a job that you feel unwilling or unable to leave at the present moment in time (although you should make it your long term goal to find work in a different company or department)
- you have narcissist parents or family members who you will have to see occasionally at family events
Why Does Going Gray Rock Work?
Picture your narcissist as a child (which they still are in some emotional sense). What does a child like to play with? Toys, of course. Only, in the case of a narcissist, Action Man and Barbie are replaced with real people. Real people like YOU.
This immature adult enjoys playing with their toys; toys that are so much more advanced than those they had when they were younger. Toys that interact; toys that talk back to them; toys that can be manipulated in ways that figurines can’t.
In the eyes of a narcissist, that’s all they see. They are the ones in charge and you are mere playthings that they seek total control and dominion over.
Using the Gray Rock Method, you transform yourself from an exciting, attention-giving, drama-generating toy into a plain, dull, useless old rock. And just as a child is unlikely to want to play with a rock for very long, so a narcissist will get bored and stop playing with their victim.
A child gets something from a toy in the form of fun and enjoyment. A narcissist gets something from a victim in the form of attention, adoration, praise, or drama. Once the fun stops and the attention dries up, the narcissist will stop playing the game.
Or at least, they will play it less often and with less enthusiasm. They might still try to see if there is life in the rock from time to time, but as long as the rock remains a rock, they will not waste their time on it. They will find some other toy to play with elsewhere.
This is just another way to frame the concept of narcissistic supply. Paraphrasing from the article linked above:
…you and the attention you provide are addictive; they have to receive a “fix” every now and then in order to satiate their ego. […] If you continue to give them what they want, they will continue to subjugate you to their needs and wishes.
To relate this to our toy analogy: a narcissist plays with you in order to get something in return, and if you continue to provide this supply of fun/drama/attention, they will continue to play with you.
How Do You Go Gray Rock?
There’s an old saying that is quite relevant here: you can’t get blood from a stone.
In this case, you are the stone (or rock) and the blood is any behavior that provides the narcissist with the supply they crave.
Keep dialogue to an absolute minimum. If you don’t have to talk to them, don’t. Stay in the car when you drop your kids off at their house. Sit at the other end of the table for family meals. Ask to move desk away from them at work. Avoid interacting with them as much as possible. But don’t make a big thing out of it as this will just give them ammunition.
When you do have to talk to them, stick to tedious subjects like the weather. If they ask questions, give short, uninspiring answers that can’t possibly lead to further conversation.
They ask, “how are you?” and you respond “fine, thanks.”
They ask, “what did you do at the weekend?” and you respond “I did my laundry and mowed the lawn.”
If they respond with “you’ve become boring,” just nod and smile in agreement (they don’t have to know that you disagree wholeheartedly with that statement).
A simple yes and no will suffice where appropriate, but sometimes you won’t want to commit to an answer if it means giving an opinion. In these cases a non-binding “hmmmm,” “maybe,” or “we’ll see” will do.
Never talk about your personal life, even the smallest details. They will hook their claws into any morsel of information you provide and use it to try and further the conversation and extract narcissistic supply from you. They want to know what you value in your life now. They envy what you have (regardless of what it is), and if they can’t have it, they will seek to take it from you somehow. Don’t give them the chance; remain secretive about your new life without them.
Never tell them how well you are doing (as much as it might please you to rub their noses in it). Remember, they are driven by their egos, and any suggestion that you are better off without them or that they are in some way inferior to you will be seen as an affront to their identity. They see themselves as above everyone else in every regard, and if you imply that you are doing better than they are, it will enrage them.
Do not ask them questions. Even if it seems like harmless small talk, as soon as you engage with them and ask them about their life, it gives them the green light to reel off a list of their recent accomplishments (whether true or fabricated) to belittle you. Or they might rant about a mutual acquaintance to see if you’ll react in any way. Don’t give them a platform. Don’t pander to their need for attention.
Try to stick to facts wherever possible. Parents’ evening is at 7pm on Wednesday. The doctor has given them (your son/daughter) antibiotics to take every 8 hours. We have 5 new clients this month. Statements that the narcissist will struggle to challenge because they are not subject to interpretation. The last thing you want to do is get into a debate with them.
Avoid mention of the past at all costs. You don’t want to revisit those dark times even if they do. By bringing up your history, you risk the resurfacing of old wounds and arguments. You’ll also be faced with the blame game which is never a game you can win.
If this should happen, one tactic which can help to diffuse the situation is to publicly accept responsibility for the problems you faced together (even if you don’t accept it on the inside). Any attempt to apportion some of the blame on them will only be met with denial, defensiveness, and attacks on you.
The Gray Rock Method is not always easy, but it is often effective. You might want to scream at them at times, but by biting your tongue and not flinching when they try to get a response, you will starve them of the drama they feed off. Rather than go without it (which is simply not an option for them), a narcissist will look elsewhere for a new source of supply.
Other essential narcissist reading (article continues below):
- The Covert Narcissist: How Shy, Introverted Types Can Be Narcissists Too
- The Rollercoaster Of Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse
- 7 Healing Affirmations For Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse
- Coping Mechanisms When Leaving A Narcissistic Partner Behind
- 8 Things A Narcissist Cannot Do For You (Or Anyone Else)
- 6 Signs You Are Dealing With A Moderate Narcissist (But Still A Narcissist)
Going Gray Rock In Appearance
In addition to your interactions with the narcissist, you can also try to mimic a gray rock in terms of what you look like and what parts of your lifestyle are visible to them.
If the narcissist is an ex-partner, try to appear as plain as possible when you have to see them. Wear very casual clothes, avoid makeup, refrain from doing your hair, or dull your appearance in some other way. This will make you less appealing to their superficial eye.
If they comment on how bad you look, let it go in one ear and out the other. They are trying to get a reaction from you, but if you just shrug as if you don’t care, they will believe you weren’t the catch they thought you were.
Create new social profiles if you can, but be aware that they might still be able to find you again. So change your privacy settings to restrict what they can see and use a very plain profile picture (or even one that isn’t of your face) so that they find it boring to try and snoop.
Avoid extravagance in any form that they might see. Go for a basic model of car, avoid jewelry, buy a modest house (if they should ever be required to visit). Don’t let them see anything that might make them think that you are doing well for yourself (for the reasons mentioned above).
It can seem like you are restricting your life for their benefit, and in some ways this is true, but remember that no car or house or other luxury will make you happy in the long run, especially if it riles up the narcissist you have no choice but to deal with. Having a life as free from them as possible will bring you the most peace and happiness, so do whatever it takes to make this a reality.
What To Expect From The Narcissist
When you employ the Gray Rock Method with a narcissist, you can expect them to react to it. They may not know precisely what you are doing (and you should NEVER tell them that you are taking this approach), but they will sense a change in your behavior toward them.
One common response is anger because it is something they have no doubt used countless times against you in the past. They may shout and they may act in a threatening way, but you must try to remain cool, calm, and composed in the face of their rage.
Alternatively, they may belittle you for staying silent or offering little in the way of a reaction. It’s the classic child-like approach to someone who isn’t listening; to call them names, tell them they are being silly, or laugh in their faces; anything to elicit a response.
Sadly, a narcissist is not shy when it comes to using others against you. In an attempt to draw you back into a confrontation, they may involve your children, your friends, your family, or your fellow colleagues. They will lie and fabricate stories about you, try to turn others against you, get others to do bully you, or threaten those you care about unless you comply with their wishes.
Always put your safety and the safety of those you care about first. If the threats seem genuine, seek the protection and guidance of the police, the courts, and the social authorities.
Other times, when you know the threats are nothing but words, you should hold your ground, remain steadfast in your Gray Rock approach, and wait for them to get bored. They will eventually.
If you can sustain your nonreactive stance, you will notice a shift in the narcissist. They may still try to push your buttons, but they will do so less and less often as they get tired of the playing the game. That’s not to say that they might not, at some point in the future, start trying in earnest again – possibly when their new source of supply dries up – but as long as you don’t take their bait, they will be forced to seek their narcissistic supply elsewhere once again.
One thing you should never expect from a narcissist is remorse. They have none. No matter how much hurt they caused you and however harrowing your ordeal, they will accept precisely zero blame or responsibility for it. So don’t go looking for it.
The Dangers Of Going Gray Rock
While it is an effective means of dealing with a narcissist when going no contact is simply not an option, the Gray Rock Method does have one or two downsides.
Firstly, you might try to use it in the wrong circumstances. When it IS possible to go no contact with a narcissist, you must always take this option. You might be tempted to simply use the Gray Rock approach rather than go through all the hassle of cutting them out once and for all, but this is not advisable.
Yes, you may still have feelings for them. Yes, you might hold out hope that they can change. Yes, it does require some upheaval and effort to ensure your paths never again cross. None of these things should be used as excuses for going Gray Rock when you have the option to go no contact.
If you have unnecessary interactions with a narcissist, then you leave yourself open to the risk of falling back into their trap. As good as you may think you are at being nonreactive to them, it only takes one slip-up and you can soon find yourself in the unwelcome situation you tried to escape from.
The second danger of using this approach is that you let it creep into other parts of your life and other relationships. You may start using the silent treatment with friends or new partners, you may experience a growing sense of indifference toward the wider world, and you may lose interest in all the things you once had a passion for.
You can also lose the ability to empathize with others as you numb yourself to any emotion, fearing it leaves you vulnerable to manipulation. You have to remember that it is ok – even advisable – to be open and honest with other people, and to let your guard down and trust again. You can’t live the rest of your life at a distance from other people just because you have to take that approach with the narcissist.
The Gray Rock Method can be a very effective way to handle a narcissist who you have to still interact with on a regular basis. It can safeguard you against further hurt by making sure you don’t become one of their targets again. Remember, they don’t want to play with a boring toy, so be just that. Don’t be their entertainment, be their least favorite pastime.
Are you having to deal with a narcissist due to unavoidable circumstances? Have you tried the method described above? How is it working for you? Leave a comment below to share your experiences with other people who are in the same boat.