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Be a ‘grey rock’. 7 tips from an expert on how to deal with a narcissist.

This post deals with abuse, and could be triggering for some readers.

Words can be abuse

There is often a misconception surrounding what abuse is. Did he hit you? Where are the bruises? The reality is there are other forms of abuse and words are absolutely one of them. 

Words can be spoken and they can be used in various forms of communication such as emails, text messages and social media. Unbelievably, they have even been used in the message on a bank statement when funds were transferred. 

But they are only words I hear you say. It can’t be that bad right? 

Wrong.

Watch How to know if you are dating a narcissist. Post continues after video. 


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Dr Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, explained: “Anyone who has ever been harmed by words over months or years or decades recognises that they are the strongest and most harmful psychological weapons of all, and the invisibility of the scars and wounds caused by these words means that survivors often do not get the validation, support and the guidance that they need to heal.” 

This verbal, emotional and psychological abuse is motivated by a desire or need to dominate and control a woman (predominantly), and it is often worse when the woman leaves the relationship. 

But it wouldn’t happen to me or anyone I know… 

In Australia, women who experience coercive control are, on average, mature, accomplished, university-educated women. Similarly, of the men in Australia who have killed their partners, a large proportion have been middle-class and well respected with little to no criminal history. The result of this is that some women don't even recognise that they are victims in the first place. Abuse does not discriminate. 

In my work helping clients navigate their communications, I have seen countless examples of women receiving communications that contain scary nonsensical tirades, baseless accusations, reverse the victim and offender, gaslight and intimidate.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing this, here’s some advice I give to my clients.

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Knowledge is power. 

Understanding controlling, narcissistic or high-conflict personalities is like learning another language. They absolutely believe what they are saying, and they apply a different set of rules to their own behaviour. 

This is incredibly difficult to comprehend when you are on the receiving end of it. Start educating yourself on these personality types and in the area that you are trying to navigate with them so you cannot be controlled. For example, if you have to resolve custody, speak to a family lawyer and understand your legal rights. 

This is empowering in your communications because you can stand in your truth knowing they cannot scare or guilt you into agreeing with their demands. With time, it also means your heart rate doesn’t always skyrocket each time they communicate with you. 

Watch: Dr Ramani on “How Words From a Narcissist Can Break Your Psyche” 


Take control of communications.

Choose a form of communication and stick to it. I recommend email for all non-emergency communications as it is in writing, date and time-stamped and you can choose when you look at it. I highly recommend creating a new email account which is for the purpose of non-emergency communications with them. If that is not possible, or they disregard your request to email that account, you can create an email rule so their emails go straight to a separate folder. 

If you have children together, another great option is a parenting app such as My Family Wizard. This manages all your scheduling requirements and records all your communications and they cannot be edited, deleted or retracted. 

Phone calls should be limited to emergencies or where there is a genuine issue of timing. 

Determine your destination.

What is your North Star in this process? This is your final destination with this person, and it is what will guide you when you are uncertain about what to do. 

Some examples include the best interests of your child(ren), to get through the process as peacefully as possible, and/or to achieve a fair financial settlement. 

A good destination has nothing to do with them, for example, “I want him to get what is coming to him”. 

Whenever you get stuck, come back to your North Star. 

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after podcast. 


Take time to respond.

Unless it is an emergency, you do not need to respond immediately. This is not to agitate them (remember what I said about your North Star?), but because responding from a place of high emotion means you cannot decode their communications, and you will end up explaining, justifying and trying to show they are wrong. This will land you in a battle with someone who is the master of battles, and it will mean a further barrage of communications – which is what we are trying to stop! 

Take. Your. Time. 

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Decipher their communications.

Go through their communication and figure out what they are really trying to say or ask. You can literally redline the sentences designed to upset you or that aren’t asking anything at all and determine what requires a response. 

This sounds simple but is very tricky as their communications are littered with hooks hoping you will take the bait and react. This takes practice, and you will get better at it with time. 

Be a grey rock.

Grey rock is the most suggested type of communication with a controlling, high-conflict or narcissistic personality type. It means to become as boring and unnoticeable as a grey rock. The outcome is they get bored of you because you are no longer giving them the attention they feed off. 

This method does however need to be tailored to your personal circumstances. For example, if you are in the Family Court, the grey rock response may be viewed as aloof and uncooperative. In these circumstances, your responses should be tweaked so that no super-smart lawyer can try to paint you as the conflict creator. 

Be courteous and stick to the facts. Sometimes, no response is necessary.

If communication is becoming too difficult, seek support.

This method requires you to communicate in a way that is not natural to you with someone you likely once loved. It is not easy to implement, and whilst family and friends can be a great support and have good intentions, if they have not experienced it or understand the personality, they cannot assist you with these communications to make them stop. 

There are professional services available to help guide you through these difficult communications. Finding the right support is very important as no one should have to navigate these treacherous waters alone. 

Mia is the Founder of Grey Rock Consulting which provides support and guidance, tailored to suit individual circumstances, to navigate communications with controlling, narcissistic or high-conflict personalities in order to go no contact, create boundaries or communicate with them where you have to. Mia has been a litigation lawyer for over 15 years and has experience navigating communications with these personality types. You can follow Mia on Instagram here.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men’s Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.www.ntv.org.au.

Feature Image: Getty.

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