Having a Relationship with a Narcissist

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Managing your Relationship with a Narcissist

Maintaining a relationship with a person with NPD is challenging. There are a limited number of ways to do it.

Boundaries

You can set the boundaries or rules for your relationship with the narcissist. It is likely these will be continually pushed or ignored. If this happens then keep resetting the boundaries. They may eventually accept them. This may work if they need you more than you need them.

As a rule, they will continually try to control everything about the relationship and push any boundaries you may try to set with them. Narcissists find it hard to tolerate boundaries or any lack of control.

Grey Rock

Narcissists meet their needs through their relationships with other people and getting ‘narcissistic supply‘ (stabilising their shaky self-esteem through positive or negative attention from others).

The grey rock technique means that you will no longer be a source of ‘supply’ for them. To do this, is to become as uninteresting as a grey rock – there is no sharing of intimate details of your life or your emotions. Conversations are kept to a minimum. Reactions to narcissists are calm, bland and lacking in any intensity. Be boring.

Narcissists cause chaos and drama and can enjoy the upset responses caused in others. They will often lose interest in you as a person if you do not let them (or show them they have) hurt or upset you and they will look for that narcissistic supply elsewhere.

If you are having an emotional reaction to them, do not show it, leave the situation until you are calm and then continue as if nothing happened. 

A consequence of the grey rock strategy is that it may cause a narcissist to work harder to provoke a reaction from you.

If you are married to a narcissist and do not want to leave the marriage, then you may find they will go elsewhere to get their needs met. This technique will drive them away. It will also ensure that your own needs and wants will continue to not be met as you suppress them even more. 

If you are separated from a narcissist, have children with them and are obligated to have contact, then this is the best technique to use. Focus the conversation on the children and try to not address any other subjects.

Psychology Today – Price and Pay Off of the Grey Rock Strategy

No Contact

Some people try to have a relationship with a narcissist but find that accepting the status quo, trying to set boundaries or going grey rock just do not work. You may find that going ‘no contact’ is the only option which will work for you.

Narcissists will not change their behaviour without inner work on themselves and this will need professional help. 

The Grey Rock Technique

Managing a Relationship with a Boss or Colleague who is a Narcissist

There are many Cluster B personality disordered people in management positions, and it is quite likely that we will come across a few in our working lives. Cluster B’s are narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths, sociopaths and histrionics. Please see the Ten Personality Disorders.

Signs you May be Working with a Narcissist

They are easy to spot in the workplace once you recognise the signs. They are self-absorbed and will look out for their own interests above those of their co-workers and the business they work for (if they own the business, they will put quick profits before all else as they are impulsive and generally lack the ability to plan long-term). They are controlling and they lack boundaries. You can try to set boundaries with them which they may or may not respect, if they do abide by your boundaries, they will resent the fact you have set them. They will not respect your views or opinions although they may pretend to listen to them. They will rarely apologise. They may blow hot and cold, sometimes being friendly and other times being aloof. They may tell blatant lies. Some of them can be quite Machiavellian. They will always blame others for things which have gone wrong even if they are to blame. They can be charming but this is superficial.

The Grey Rock Technique in the Workplace

Working with a narcissist is difficult and stressful especially if they decide you are in their ‘bad books.’ While working with a narcissist it is best to ‘go grey rock’ which means to be as uninteresting as possible and to not react to any provocation as this usually means they will lose interest in you as a source of narcissistic supply (narcissistic supply is a term which describes the reactions narcissists enjoy and get from other people. They like to feel powerful over others, have control over others, get attention, praise and admiration, and elicit negative or positive emotional energy).

Ultimately, it may best to start looking for another job as it is unlikely they will change, realise the error of their ways or ever be remorseful for the way they have behaved unless they have had professional help.

Dr. Les Carter explains how to argue with a narcissist.

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Sarah Graham

Sarah Graham

I am a Counsellor, based in Bournemouth in the UK, with specialist knowledge of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I am trained in treating Complex Trauma. I work online and am insured to work in most places in the world.

Link to my Counselling Website Here

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