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.