Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.


Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking.  I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.

How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.

It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible.   But sometimes it isn’t.    For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them.  Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job.  Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave.    Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.

In these types of situations, you probably are not able to go completely No Contact (or even VLC in some cases) but you still need a way to keep the narcissist and their manipulations at bay.    Fortunately there is a solution.   It’s called grey-rocking.

Grey rocking means acting like a grey rock: being completely boring and uninteresting.   It means going emotionally No Contact even if you can’t physically do so.   It isn’t the silent treatment though.  Giving a narcissist the silent treatment will send them over the deep end and they may up the ante.  You have to be more sneaky (you have to think almost like the narcissist!)

So when the narcissist is trying to get information from you or is love bombing or trying to hoover you, what you do is talk about something boring, like the weather, or how much your car needs an oil change, or how expensive milk is these days.  Change whatever sensitive or personal subject they bring up to something unrelated, impersonal, and dull.   If you can, try to make a getaway.  You can tell them you have an appointment and can’t stay around to chat.  If the narcissist has been eyeing you as potential prey, grey rocking them will make them lose interest and they will move on to greener pastures.   After a quick and boring exchange, POLITELY make your exit.

If you’re already prey (for example, if you’re living with a narcissist), grey rocking will be trickier and may take longer to work.  Don’t lose patience or give up.  Keep at it and eventually your emotional unavailability will frustrate them to the point they may throw a temper tantrum initially, but you’re not actually being mean or ignoring them so they can’t rage too much without seeming childish and unreasonable (yeah, I know, they already are).  Don’t allow them to push any of your buttons.  Show no emotional reaction to anything they say, no matter how hard this is to do.   If you keep at this, eventually they’ll grow bored, give up and discard YOU as they begin to look for a new source of supply (you have to be prepared for that).

Here are two examples of grey rocking in two different types of exchanges.

In a work/casual situation:

Narcissist Coworker (looking for a juicy tidbit to start a nasty rumor about you using triangulation):   So, how did you and Tim like working together?  Personally I can’t stand him.  I think he’s an idiot in over his head.    I hear he likes you though.  (winks on the word “likes”)

You:   Oh, do you know if it’s supposed to rain tomorrow?  I completely forgot to check the weather forecast this morning.

Narcissist Coworker:  (shrugs) I dunno…So, anyway, Martha was saying…

You:  Hey, listen, it was great talking to you.  (looking at your watch) But I have to run because I’m already late for my appointment.

Narcissist Coworker (perking up): Appointment? What kind of appointment?

You:  (pulling out phone and pretending to look for a number):  It was great chatting but I gotta make sure they hold my appointment.  (Wave cheerfully, turn around and walk away and start talking into the phone as if someone’s on the other end).


In a more intimate relationship:

Narcissist Husband:  You know, you really act crazy sometimes.   Even our neighbors noticed the way you acted at that dinner party last night and asked me if you had a “problem.”  I didn’t know what to say.

You:  Oh, really?   Well, listen, I’m on my way out to a meeting so I can’t stay and chat with you about this.

Narcissist Husband: Wait just one minute!  I’m not finished.  Why are you avoiding the issue.  This is very important!

You:   I feel just fine.  Don’t worry about me.   I really have to go to that meeting.  Let’s talk about this later.

Narcissistic Husband (projecting):  There you go, denying you have a problem.   Always thinking it’s me with the problem saying I’m worrying too much.  I don’t worry too much.  I love you.  I’m only trying to help you. You act like you’re afraid of me.

You: I know you love me.  But seriously, I’m required to be there in 15 minutes.  You know how much my boss hates it when anyone is late.  I don’t want to get chewed out.  (you turn to go out the door).

Narcissist Husband: Wait! (running after you).  I’m not finished!

You (getting in the car and waving): See you later!

Narcissist Husband turns around and storms back into the house, slamming the door.

Obviously, the second situation is a lot more tricky and you will have to face him later.  The “meeting” you’re attending is bogus, but it will give you a chance to get out and think about how to deal with him later. (You can also use these escapes to plan your permanent escape!)

When you get home, keep changing the subject or “getting distracted” by other things so he never has a chance to make any headway and eventually the subject will be dropped (saying you’re tired and going to bed is a good distraction–be sure to yawn a lot!).  Talk about things you know bore him, like your book club or the cute shoes your friend wore at lunch.  Always keep them impersonal–for example, don’t mention how much YOU want those cute shoes.

Naturally he will try to upset you or press your buttons. Count to a thousand if you must, but show no emotional reaction (remember, your reactions are his fuel).   Try to remain as calm and cheerful as you can (even if you want to throttle him, which is probably the case)–you don’t want him to suspect anything!   Remind yourself this is only temporary until you find a better solution (a way to leave).     Of course, this scenario will play itself out many times before he gives up on you.  But he isn’t going to stick around too long if you’re not giving him any opportunity to feed off your emotions.  But by the time that happens, you may already be gone.


Further Reading:

Going Grey Rock With a Narcissist


22 thoughts on “Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.

  1. I have heard of grey rock before. Also you should never talk about anything new or exciting in your life, yes be dull, and that includes dressing frumpy. Just be plain boring! LoL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My problem is that the narc in my life lives across the hall from me. What I do is tell her precisely why I am setting limits or going silent.

    The other day I was speaking with another tenet in the laundry room. We were discussing blogs and WordPress and I was telling him about the spike I got when I re-posted a piece about the Stanford rapist. The narc came in and began speaking as if I wasn’t there. I turned to her and
    said, “As we’ve discussed, I am not going to enable your narcissist. I find it horrifying that your parents never taught you not interrupt someone who is speaking. I’ll tell you when I’m finished.”

    Was I angry…you bet.

    Did she fall silent. Yes.

    Now, I may have given her a bit of supply, but at the price of witnessing the sheer delight in the eyes of the other tenant who was glad to hear someone put her in her place.

    As we’ve discussed, I have no intention of enabling anyone’s narcissism…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooh! I love what you said! Good for you! I could see how that might work too. I think grey rocking is for peeps like me who are more timid in those situations. But if you can tell a narcissist directly to their face what you’re doing and why (without losing your cool) then that could work just as well or better. It sure shut her up, didn’t it? LOL! That’s awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Love this post and I think its an important public service and survival post. One thing about directly confronting a narcissist it is important to not do so if they have power over you financially or in some way that impacts your ability to survive. This is not about being timid its about survival. I confronted a narc directly that was president of my condo association (when I had my own housing) She spent the next 5 years calling in false reports to the police, to the crises line, to various friends, to neighbors spreading lies far and wide and made my life so unendurable I had to move.
        I’d never confront someone (and I was mild about it) that previously demonstrated a malignant, destructive streak. She was old enough to be deeply entrenched and skilled at destroying people that called her on her destruction. I was deeply traumatized by feeling unsafe in my neighborhood for years and having to deal with the cops that suggested restraining orders. They didn’t believe her, but I didn’t have the resources to sue her. I had to leave the church I was in, and the neighborhood because of her influence SO, confront if they can’t ruin your life, gray rock if they can inflict serious damage

        Liked by 1 person

        • Katie! It’s good to see you’re still around and it was fantastic seeing a comment from you. Are you going to be blogging again?
          That really sucks about that condo ass. president who was targeting you. It’s uncanny the way they can pick us out, as if they all have some secret association and just KNOW we were already traumatized. At least the cops didn’t believe her and eventually things worked out better for you in the end. .

          Liked by 1 person

          • I keep reading your posts when I get on the internet and get a lot out of them! Although I’m consolidating my energy to the professional blog I have in my real name I still ponder what you write and find it helpful. Even if we go no contact with narc abusive family, you are right Narc abusers have some sort of 6th sense about finding former abuse victims and continuing on where our families left off
            I wonder if there is not some sort of spiritual emotional and physical repellent (think bug spray) that would repel them enough to have them leave you alone? I think being authentic and vulnerable, a actual gift the former scapegoat has, is like catnip to those narc exploiters. I’m pondering this, wondering of the passage in Ephesians about putting on Spiritual armor might work as narc protection?

            It looks like this might be a blog so maybe my departure was premature?


            • I think probably so, Katie. I’d love it if you wrote another blog post.
              What’s this professional blog you mentioned? Can you spill the beans about this at all?
              Narc repellant? Here ya go. (I made this about a year ago, lol–enjoy!)


              Sorry it’s so big.

              Liked by 1 person

            • LOL that cracked me up! And yes, I wrote another blog so it looks like my great announcement was premature! You inspire me to thing about these issues more deeply!

              Liked by 1 person

            • I’m glad my post inspired you. I just read your new post, always exactly what I need to read at just the right time. I will comment later.
              What is your big announcement? I can’t wait to hear.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. oh my gosh I read this and realized I perfected this skill on my own as a survival instinct.. I was always gray rocking! borrring as can be til I even hated it myself …til it even became me in a sense..
    and I was called boring! in extreme anger
    because he wanted supply…
    it made him beyond furious
    people get offended of course when you shut down around them,they take it personal,and I wasn’t even able to turn it back on…I was scared.scared to share myself.. the good a way it was a lack of confidence but also self preservation.
    because when I did share it ,it got knocked down so many times why keep sharing it

    they want you to light up when they walk in the room
    and even though they’ll never show appreciation or praise you for it,they know you have excitement in you.. that you shut down when theyre around…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I gray rock too, all the time. I do it with my family. I tell them nothing personal anymore, and this was LOOOONNNGGG before I ever heard of this term. I think it’s instinctive for us, as you said, a survival mechanism.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lol tried this with a p and n (they’re biological family members). And I tell ya, they were livid . why don’t you talk to us? Tell us everything about you! They were almost crying lol
    Just goes to show how much it ticks them off 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • At first it will tick them off because they’re used to you always being at their beck and call, and always available for more emotional feeding frenzies. But keep at it–yes, it’s hard and sometimes feels like it will never do any good. But most narcs are smart enough to know when they need to move on because they’re just not getting any blood from you any more. It’s a waste of their time. Yes, if they are family members they *could* reject or disown you (they will probably try to hoover you first though), and that’s a risk you must be prepared for. Remember, they never loved you anyway because they don’t know how (it’s not you personally). If they reject you and throw you out of the family, at least you’ll be free of their abuse, even if it hurts for awhile.
      Of course during this time you are just holding them at bay. It’s a temporary measure for the least damage to be done. All the while you are planning how you will eventually go no contact.

      Liked by 1 person

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