When Insecurity Looks Like Extreme Confidence: A Narcissistic Example
When I was just starting my business, I decided I needed to do local networking. I’d heard it would be good for the business, so I did some digging and started looking at small business groups on meetup.com.
I felt so lucky when I quickly found a local small business meetup that was happening just a short distance from my house.
At the first meeting, we were each invited to briefly introduce ourselves and explain our business. When it was my turn, one woman looked up sharply like she’d been stung by a bee as I started to talk about my business.
She caught my eye as I spoke, and I smiled at her. At first, she just stared, but then I saw a small smile form on her face. I felt relieved and went on.
After the introductions, we had lunch. I went over to say hello to the woman, and she seemed really friendly.
The Facade is Cast
She was a gorgeous, charming, and seemingly very successful woman. She seemed to be someone I could really learn a lot from.
She said she’d been in business for years (though in hindsight, I realize that she didn’t really explain her business when given the chance and was pretty vague about it). Still, she seemed quite successful.
She talked the big talk. And as far as I could tell, she was walking the big walk.
She drove an expensive car, had an expensive bag, and had those expensive shoes with red soles. You know the ones I mean. And her jewelry! I could tell it was all real – a stark contrast to my costume knockoffs.
I was on the hunt for a mentor, and she seemed like a perfect fit! She was confident, attractive and seemed quite intelligent.
The Private Meeting On the Pedestal
She asked me a lot of questions about my business and offered little snippets of advice that seemed legit. At the end of the meeting, she invited me to meet her for lunch the following week.
The day we met for lunch, she asked for more details about my business, which I happily shared. Then, much to my delight, she was telling me all about her upcoming executive board meeting.
She said they were considering investing in other local small businesses and that if I played my cards right, they might invest in mine.
Of course, I was over the moon! I practically worshipped her – I wanted to BE her!
It was a lot like when I almost interviewed Sam Vaknin, but she was more covert than he was in her narcissism. She came to me as a would-be mentor, and I ate it up like so much cake.
And since the lady promised to bring me up at this meeting, I started pulling together all sorts of documentation and information about my business.
The next day, I emailed the information as she had asked, and I waited for her to get back to me after her meeting. But then she went silent. I was a little sad but figured maybe my business just wasn’t up to snuff for this executive board.
I understood – after all, I had just started my business and wasn’t super successful yet.
And there was a stark contrast between my business and hers – she, at that time, was clearly well beyond me, it seemed.
I counted myself lucky for our time together and moved on.
I mean, she had an EXECUTIVE BOARD. All I had at the time was me.
The Shocking Truth
Then, a couple of months later, I noticed that she’d created a brand new Facebook page. It seemed she had just launched a new business – and when I started looking into it, it turned out that her business was eerily familiar.
In fact, it was like she literally copied the business plan and structure that I had outlined for her months ago.
I reached out to her and asked what she was doing. She told me that I was mistaken, that it had been her idea the whole time.
She said that the business plan I had submitted to her was a joke, and THAT was why she’d gone silent. In hindsight, I realize that was straight-up gaslighting.
She subtly tore me down, implying that I was stupid to think that someone like HER could possibly take an idea from someone as small potatoes as ME.
Of course, when I pointed out that she had literally done everything I’d put in the business plan, she got offended and screamed at me, telling me she was tired of people always accusing her of stuff like this.
She called me jealous and immediately blocked me. I had been officially discarded.
Then, from what I heard, she started talking to our few mutual connections about how I thought I owned my niche and how she practically invented me anyway. (Sounds a lot like a smear campaign, no?)
It went on from there.
What I missed was that her apparent confidence was more like grandiosity.
I missed that she had used me to get an idea for a short-lived business.
Later, I would learn that I wasn’t the only person she had done this to – apparently, several people who had been part of the group at different times had experienced the same thing.
I learned that her fancy bag, car, and shoes were thanks to her wealthy husband.
And she was a bored stay-at-home wife (no kids) with too much time on her hands. And as for her stealing all of my business? I admit I worried for a minute.
After all, she had a lot more money than I did and, as far as I could tell, would be far more successful than I could.
But I didn’t have to worry for long because after failing to become immediately successful, she moved on to someone else’s idea. (Plus, if we’re being honest, she was trying to be someone she just wasn’t.)
To put it mildly, communicating with a narcissist can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it matters that they comprehend what you’re saying. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt exasperated when trying to have simple conversations with narcissists who have become agitated and who are actively gaslighting.
Using the Grey Rock Method Safely
So a while back, I wrote this post about the only way to effectively communicate with a narcissist, and in my experience, it’s the truth. In the post, I mentioned the Grey Rock Method, so I thought I’d offer a bit of background and explanation on where it came from. The Grey Rock Method is an ideal way to respond to a narcissist who is actively gaslighting you.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a pervasive and highly effective manipulation tactic used by most narcissists, a form of psychological abuse meant to manipulate you by psychological means into questioning your own sanity. It is pure brainwashing. In addition to toxic narcissists, many abusers and cult leaders use this tactic, not to mention dictators. They do it slowly and subtly – so it kind of sneaks up on you before you realize it’s happening.
This is where your abuser causes you to doubt your own memory, perception, and sanity. The term comes from the 1938 stage play Gaslight and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she is insane by making small adjustments to their home and then convincing her that she is imagining the changes.
How do you recognize when a narcissist is gaslighting?
So, how do you know when to use the grey rock method? It’s going to be most effective when the narcissist is gaslighting you. They will be thicker than concrete walls, intentionally trying to misunderstand you and assume the worst of you, in every single word. You find yourself feeling hopeless like you’re unable to make your point – and if you’re like me, it’s especially frustrating because you probably have no problem communicating with literally everyone else in your life.
Gaslighting is abusive because it is used to subvert honest communication. The abuser doesn’t want to talk about whatever problem there is; they want to persuade you that you are mistaken about what’s happening. They want you to doubt your own perceptions, your own memory; they want you to feel confused and off-balance, so that the only reasonable response is to do whatever they say.
What is the “Grey Rock” Method?
The grey rock method is a form of emotional self-defense used to cope with people who attack your emotions. It is a powerful strategy to shut down any kind of narcissistic abuse, behavior, or attack by anyone, without violating your boundaries. It allows you to disengage from the narcissist and refrain from making him or her wrong. It’s all about appearing to be somewhat indifferent to narcissists’ behavior.
How do you use the “Grey Rock” Method?
When someone is acting out of emotion, trying to manipulate you, they are not being rational. So your goal is not to think of a clever response – it’s to avoid being pulled into responding emotionally yourself. To do that, it helps to remember that most of our communication happens non-verbally. So respond non-verbally.
In other words, do your best to avoid feeling sorry for them if they’re feeling sorry for themselves, don’t get mad at them if they’re mad at you, don’t take it personally if they’re taking it personally.
The best way to deal with an emotionally manipulative person is not to react emotionally yourself at all — which is what the grey rock method aims to make easy for you. Think of it as practice in learning not to care about things that don’t matter.
When you’re using the grey rock method, you’re supposed to act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. Essentially, you don’t give them any of your energy or emotion; you literally act like you’re as boring as a grey rock. This helps you to become less attractive to manipulative people such as narcissists.
While the grey rock method will not fix the situation in the long term, it can help you regain some control and keep things calm when you do need to deal with a narcissist. The grey rock method is highly effective but also infuriating for narcissists to experience.
In part, Skylar says the grey rock method is, “primarily a way of encouraging a narcissist, psychopath, stalker or another emotionally unbalanced person, to lose interest in you.”
How does the Grey Rock Method differ from the No-Contact rule?
Skylar says that the difference is “you don’t blatantly try to avoid contact with the disordered individual.”
Instead, she advises, “you allow contact but only give boring, monotonous responses so that the mentally unwell person must go elsewhere to get their need for drama gratified.”
Skylar adds: “One might say that Grey Rock is a way of breaking up with a psychopath by using the old, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ excuse, except that you act it out instead of saying it and the psychopath comes to that conclusion on his own.”
Why does the Grey Rock Method work?
According to Skylar: “There are gray rocks and pebbles everywhere you go, but you never notice them. None of them attract your attention. You don’t remember any specific rock you saw today because they blend with the scenery. That is the type of boring that you want to channel when you are dealing with a psychopath. Your boring persona will camouflage you and the psychopath won’t even notice you were there. This method strikes at the heart of the psychopath’s motivation: to avoid boredom.”
What are the most important components of successfully using the Grey Rock Method?
Rule number one when it comes to practicing the Grey Rock Method is to never tell the narcissist you’re doing so. If you do, he’ll definitely figure out a way to use it against you.
Never ask questions of the narcissist and don’t offer any “committal” responses – just say things like “hmm” or “mhmm” – keep it casual.
If possible, discuss only “safe” topics, such as the news, social media – fashion, cooking, etc. Nothing that would be personal – even if the narcissist begs you for it. Drama-free is the way to be!
Try to be distracted during the conversation so that you don’t have to directly look the narcissist in the eye the whole time. Make it something simple like doodling in a notebook or checking your text messages, or something more complicated such as knitting a scarf or working on a document for work. If you focus a bit more on your activity, you won’t be as directly affected by the narcissist’s attempts to manipulate you during the conversation.
Most importantly during this practice, keep your head in the game and don’t allow the narcissist to get inside your head. Narcissists are expert “guilt-trippers” and have no qualms about making you “feel bad” so that you’ll try to justify or defend your intentions – don’t fall into the trap.
What else should I consider before I try the Grey Rock Method?
One important thing to know about the Grey Rock Method is that there is a level at which it can become unsafe for you psychologically – and that’s when you begin to experience symptoms of dissociation.
A lot of people don’t realize that these two are connected, but here’s what happens.
When you learn to use this method and you find out how effective it can be when it comes to dealing with your narcissist, you may find that it is a great way to deal with EVERYTHING that is an issue in your life.
The problem with this is that you begin to truly stop caring – and your ability to feel your own emotions diminishes. This is a major issue because you don’t just stop feeling pain and anxiety – you stop feeling the good stuff too.
Now it’s your turn – have you ever used the Grey Rock Method? How did it work for you, and what tips would you offer for someone who’s trying it for the first time? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
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