Gray Rocks: Lessons in Communicating with a Narcissist

“Narcissists (and often, by contagion, their unfortunate victims) don’t talk, or communicate: they fend off, hide and evade . . . The ensuing convoluted sentences are .. a lack of commitment elevated to an ideology. The narcissist prefers to wait and see what procrastination brings: postponement of the inevitable leads to the inevitability of postponement as a strategy of survival.”—Sam Vaknin* Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited

When you can’t go no contact with the narcissist in you life, there is an alternative approach called “gray rock.” The point of “gray rock” is to become as uninteresting as possible, to stop “feeding” the narcissist so you are no longer a source of narcissistic supply. The thought is that if you don’t offer the narcissist what he is looking for he will seek new victims and your relationship with the narcissist will become less chaotic and painful and the narcissist may go away completely. 

I’m working on being a gray rock and sincerely hope that this strategy works. The  chaos the narcissist brings into my life is just too much for me. On the path to becoming a gray rock, I think I’ve achieved “gray rock lightly speckled with some bright color” status. 

If there is just one issue we need to communicate about, or better yet no issues, then this gray rock thing is pretty easy. This week was not that week. I’ve physically cringed at each time sensitive topic of discussion that’s been added to the plate. He only started sending messages on all these topics two days ago, but my anxiety has my heart pumping out of my chest as I sit here and my head is pounding thanks to my clenched teeth. 

I don’t “talk” to my narcissist in the traditional sense. I avoid one on one contact with him. When I must see him in person I avoid talking to him as much as possible. He is only supposed to call or text me incase of an emergency. All of our communication is through a court ordered web program. When I say “talk,” I really mean sending messages through the portal. I’ve done as much as I can to protect myself from the harm his communication can cause. 

This week our daughter was diagnosed with something that could be very serious if not treated correctly now, so we have to discuss treatments since he didn’t attend her doctor’s appointment. Last week was summer sports sign up, he disregarded those messages until this week, so now we’ve got that discussion going. If you think signing the kids up for a sport they want to do at a very low cost in a convenient location for both of us is a no-brainer, you haven’t spent much time with a narcissist. 

Next, I had to offer him first right of refusal to watch the kids for an unavoidable meeting. I really thought this would be a simple thing:

Normal person: “Can you watch the kids on this date from this time to that time?” Other Normal person: “No, I can’t.” Normal Person: “Thanks!”

Simple! But I forgot I’m not talking to a normal person. Had I realized that asking him if he wanted to watch the kids would turn into him accusing me of refusing to let the kids see him, I would have waited. And to top that all off, we met with a realtor today. 

He was on top of his crazy making game this week and I was not the best gray rock. I’m feeling super stressed, but trying to maintain that gray rock facade when communicating with him. It’s tough. Being a gray rock means taking deep breaths and letting hurtful comments slide. It means replying to messages, realizing that replying is just not worth your time, and deleting the carefully crafted message. It means asking specific questions one at a time, multiple times. It means remembering that you will never have a normal conversation.

Ultimately, I hope it means peace. 
*Sam Vaknin is a diagnosed narcissist who writes books about narcissism. Just let that roll around in your head for a bit!

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