There are a handful of techniques that are designed to protect victims of narcissistic abuse from their abuser. In a perfect world, going no contact would be the best approach one could have but in reality it isn’t always feasible. For victims of abuse who can’t go no contact, the next best thing that they could do would be to use the gray rock method on the narcissist in their life. 

To use the gray rock method on a narcissist you have to refuse to have significant interactions with them. When they use your vulnerabilities against you, you won’t engage. When they criticize you, you won’t defend or explain yourself. Your demeanor will always be very neutral around them like a boring gray rock.

The purpose of the gray rock method is to significantly reduce the amount of validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as narcissistic supply, that you provide to the narcissist in your life. 

The well-being of a narcissist is heavily dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can accumulate, making this technique nothing short of genius. So, we are going to guide you through everything you need to know to successfully use the gray rock method. 

the grey rock method

What You Need to Know to Successfully Use the Gray Rock Method on a Narcissist

Above all else, it is really important that your motivation to use the gray rock method originates from a place of awareness and understanding about narcissistic abuse and not a place of helplessness or hopelessness. 

What does that mean? 

Imagine that instead of using the gray rock method, you regularly had significant conversations with the narcissist in your life, you had strong reactions when they weaponized your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you, and you tried to defend yourself when they criticized you or projected their negative emotions onto you.

You’ll likely be met with narcissistic behavior patterns that are invalidating, devaluing, dehumanizing, and chaotic. After months, years, or even decades of these types of interactions, you’ll develop a crippling level of self-doubt, self-blame, anxiety, and confusion that manipulates you into a submissive state of helplessness and hopelessness. 

a victim of narcissistic abuse feeling helpless and hopeless

While someone who feels helpless and hopeless may technically be using the gray rock method, the likelihood of them reaping the life changing rewards of using the gray rock method are unbelievably low. 

Yes, the narcissist might realize that the victim is no longer a viable source of narcissistic supply and leave the relationship, which is the point of the gray rock method.

But because the victim’s motivation to use the gray rock method has come from a place of helplessness and hopelessness, the narcissist leaving is going to consume them with ruminating thoughts that keep them tied to the abusive relationship.

To successfully use the gray rock method on a narcissist, you have to understand why it works so well. 

Why Does the Gray Rock Method Work so Well?

It’s believed that narcissism originates from an unhealthy or abusive upbringing with primary caregivers who are unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent. This type of upbringing leaves children incapable of developing a realistic sense of self and with a list of emotional inadequacies a mile long.

The most important thing to understand if you are to successfully use the gray rock method on a narcissist is that this unhealthy or abusive upbringing that narcissists had didn’t give them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that a healthy upbringing would because their primary caregivers were unable to mirror their emotions, thoughts, feelings, and needs.

What this does is it essentially tells the child that their true identity isn’t good enough to be loved and cherished by others. 

There’s a lot more that goes into this so we highly recommend that you read our article How Are Narcissists Made but from here, the child will begin to desperately search their external environment for the validation, admiration, and reassurance they can’t get from their primary caregivers. 

This is very dangerous because it teaches the child to search their external environment for validation, admiration, and reassurance and compartmentalize their internal environment to suppress their negative emotions so they can “manage” their fears of being rejected, abandoned, and unloved.

This behavior creates a person with an incredibly unstable internal world that is hidden from others by a falsified identity that is designed to accumulate narcissistic supply from their external world. 

a narcissistic getting a lot of supply

The problem here is that any form of authenticity, like holding them accountable for their abusive behavior, contradicts their falsified identity and serves a reminder that they’re living a lie. 

This reminder of their true identity is terrifying and triggers a lot of negative emotions like shame because they believe it makes them unloveable, abandonable, and rejectable. 

Sadly, they’re so emotionally inadequate that they’re incapable of managing these negative emotions in a healthy way so they use narcissistic supply, the validation, admiration, and reassurance others give them, to maintain their falsified identity to ensure that their fragile sense of self is never triggered. 

That is why the gray rock method is such a fantastic technique to use against the narcissist. It forces them to choose between getting zero narcissistic supply or moving on and finding another source. 

What Should You Expect When Using the Gray Rock Method On a Narcissist? 

As self-centered as a narcissist is, they will notice that you are emotionally distancing yourself from them and this will trigger some of their deepest insecurities so it’s very common for them to accuse you of things that revolve around an abuser’s fear of abandonment like cheating.

In a healthy relationship with someone who is even remotely capable of being vulnerable, a fear of abandonment would be addressed with a conversation about the relationship. When it comes to narcissists, a fear of abandonment is going to be managed by the narcissist trying to manipulate their victim into engaging with them in the same way as they once did.

This section is going to guide you though a handful of behaviors that you should expect when using the gray rock method with a narcissist but if you’re interested in a complete guide through all of the behavior patterns you should expect, we suggest that you check out our article How Do Narcissists React to the Gray Rock Method?

Narcissistic Rage & Baiting

When a narcissist weaponizes your vulnerabilities and insecurities against you to try to manipulate you into a confrontation or argument it is called baiting

When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their falsified identity and triggers their suppressed negative emotions causing them to either clam up and go into a silent treatment or explode into a terrifying rage, it is called narcissistic rage

Suggested Reading: What Happens During Narcissistic Rage, 15 of the Best Examples of Narcissistic Rage.

The reactions that narcissists have to the gray rock method, or any other type of boundary, should serve as a reminder that the narcissist in your life is dangerous, unstable, and doesn’t belong in your life. With the guidance of a qualified professional, you should strive to attain a happy and healthy life and refuse to be bullied into a submissive silence. 

Your Vulnerabilities and Insecurities Will Be Triggered

Using the gray rock method means that you must hide all emotions, feelings, needs, and thoughts from the narcissist if you want to protect your emotional stability but it is really important to clarify just exactly what that means. 

Hiding all emotions, feelings, needs, and thoughts from the narcissist in your life is a difficult task. The reason being that you have to be mindful of how you interact with other people around the narcissist in your life as well. For example, it would be a horrible idea to let the narcissist in your life see you being happy with friends but distant and cold with them. 

By no means does this mean that you have to gray rock your friends and family too, it just means that you have to be cautious when it comes to what the narcissist in your life sees. 

A narcissist getting angry at his victim for being happy

As we mentioned before, they are going to realize that you’re not engaging with them on the same level as you once did. This is going to trigger a lot of their deeply rooted insecurities and vulnerabilities so with the gray rock method, consistency is key to remaining emotionally and physically safe.

On the flip side of things, you should also expect your insecurities and vulnerabilities to be triggered as well. As you now know, the purpose of the gray rock method is to show the narcissist that you are no longer a sufficient source of narcissistic supply and push them to find someone else and they will have no problem ensuring that you know that they are searching for someone else either. 

In a romantic relationship, this could manifest in the form of dating apps, inappropriate phone calls in front of you, coming home late and so on. In a family setting, this often manifests in the form of the abuser playing favorites through the scapegoat and golden child. 

Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to remain collected and don’t try to engage with them even though it hurts your feelings. Remember, experiencing the discarding phase because you’re not a source of validation, admiration, and reassurance anymore is going to hurt a lot less than being stuck in the abuse cycle indefinitely. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

If you do use the gray rock method to drive the narcissist out of your life, be prepared for them to try to come crawling back into your life. They’ll be very reluctant to let you slip away, even if they have a new source of supply, if they viewed you as a viable source of supply at one point in time.

You should be prepared for them to try to hoover you back into the relationship by any means necessary and take the precautionary steps needed to ensure that it never happens under any circumstances.

Suggested Reading: Why Do Narcissists Hoover?

With that being said, there’s a possibility that you don’t experience the hoovering phase at all! It’s common for vicitms of abuse to be sad about not experiencing the hoovering phase because it is like one last condescending voice telling them that they aren’t good enough but that is not the case.

Narcissists are unpredictable, there’s now way to tell why some people experience hoovering and others don’t. Just count yourself as lucky and move on to the happy, healthy, and secure life you deserve.

It’s also important to understand that the gray rock method is not a technique that can “fix” or “change” the narcissist. It’s important for us to mention this because they will pretend to be a changed man or woman during the hoovering phase.

a narcissist trying to hoover

To the unsuspecting, it could be tempting to justify giving them a second change because the gray rock method was enough punishment but that is ridiculous! You need to stay adamant about the boundary you’ve set because they are not going to change their behavior.

Last, but certainly not least, you have to understand that the gray rock method isn’t meant to make you emotionless. It’s not meant to make you feel numb or suppress the pain that you’re feeling. It is designed to hide all of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs form the narcissist, not from yourself.

In front of the narcissist you want to stay cool, calm, and collected like an emotionless gray rock. But the second you get into a safe place out of sight and earshot of the narcissist in your life, feel free to express your emotions in which ever healthy ways you see fit!

If you need help starting this process, we strongly recommend that you reach out to a qualified professional of guidance!

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All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References

Follingstad, Diane R., et al. “The role of emotional abuse in physically abusive relationships.” Journal of family violence 5.2 (1990): 107-120.