Dealing with narcissistic people (self-serving people who lack empathy and have an inflated sense of their own importance) can be maddening. It is usually best to avoid narcissists altogether, if you can. If you can’t escape them – perhaps because you have to work with one or cooperate with one in your family – it can be very tempting to argue with them, criticise them, and scream, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ However, you will never win, so it’s best you hold your tongue when you are tempted to fight them. Luckily, there is a much more effective way to deal with them; something known as the Grey Rock method.
What is the Grey Rock Method?
The intention of the Grey Rock method is that you embody all the thrill and personality of a grey rock. If successful, the emotionally unbalanced person will lose all interest in you. It’s not the No Contact method; you allow contact with them but only give them boring, unsatisfying responses so as to not fuel their ego. These people crave drama in some form, and the Grey Rock Method retrains their brain to expect that you won’t fulfil this desire.
This method can be used to deal with malignant narcissists and psychopaths, but also attention-seeking people and drama queens. It can be used to break up a negative relationship or avoid becoming a target to these people in the first place.
Sadly, sometimes these narcissistic people can be people you have frequent, unavoidable contact with, like a colleague or boss, parents or family members, or a narcissistic ex with whom you must co-parent.
How to do it
Keep dialogue with this person to a minimum; don’t talk to them unless you need to and avoid situations where you would need to interact with them. Resist the temptation to seek their validation. When you must talk to them, stick to practical topics or mundane matters like the weather.
Respond to their questions with short, uninspired answers that won’t lead to further conversation, and don’t ask them questions. Keep your tone steady, low and dull.
Avoid talking about yourself, making sure not to let them in on your personal life, even the smallest details. It’s important to avoid triggering envy in these narcissistic personalities. Instead it’s best to fade into the background.
If the narcissist is someone you’ve only had little contact with so far, the Grey Rock method can make it so they forget about you altogether.
Sonya had a stressful separation with her narcissistic ex Sean. However, they needed to co-parent their 4-year-old son. Sean had little genuine regard for the feelings and needs of others, could be paranoid at times, was difficult to please, and made strict demands of Sonya. The more she stood up for herself, the more aggressive he became. Their arguments were futile and volatile, and Sonya had become despairing about ever being able to cooperate with him peacefully.
Through our work, Sonya saw that expecting a mature, adult relationship with Sean was unrealistic. He seemed to enjoy the drama of conflict. He was likely still attaching to her through his hatred and bitterness. We noted that his behavior was a projection of his own deep feelings of inadequacy, so we could hold compassion for him too.
Over time, Sonya figured out her own needs and how to meet them (clearly not with Sean). She began to fully accept that Sean could ‘do no wrong’ in his own eyes and would always blame her. She stopped trying to live up to his unrealistic and changing expectations. She sought and found validation elsewhere, regained her self-worth, and detached from him.
Sonya minimised communications with Sean. When they absolutely had to communicate, she listened, smiled and nodded, said very little, restrained herself from being defensive, offered genuine praise when possible, and told him nothing about her new life. She avoided his mind games by staying neutral and non-responsive when he criticised her. In other words, she became boring like a grey rock!
Eventually, Sean gave up trying to bait Sonya. He found a new partner, which settled him down somewhat. Having minimal interaction actually gave Sean the best chance of being a calm and responsible parent, and gave Sonya the best chance to move on with her life in peace.
If you are struggling to deal with a narcissist in your life, we can help you find the strength and the tools to implement the grey rock method and other assertive approaches to take back your power. Call us or email us today.