The no contact rule is well understood now in the narcissistic abuse recovery space. It states that to give yourself the best chance of recovery, you must break off ALL contact with them – no exceptions.
Whilst this is great if you CAN do it, life’s not always that simple. Sometimes, you might have kids with the narcissist, and some contact is unavoidable. Or else you might be dealing with a narcissist colleague or boss or workplace who you can’t get away from right away at least and must deal with for the time being. What do you do in these cases?
That’s what we’re going to cover in this article – some tips and resources for what to do if you CAN’T go no contact with a narcissist, and must have some unavoidable contact with them. In these cases, the strategy switches to how to best limit, manage and control the interactions you must have with them, so they cause the least damage to you possible.
The good news is that it’s possible – some good concrete strategies for this have been developed. Here’s a quick summary:
- Keep any essential contact to a bare minimum and never engage a moment more than necessary
- Stick to facts and issues at hand and nothing else.
- Stay calm and don’t rise to provocation and “button pushing” behavior
- Use “gray rock” tactics to bore the narcissist off.
- Stay in as positive a mental and emotional state as possible, so they behavior doesn’t affect you so much
- Document all inappropriate behaviors in a workplace setting.
Now let’s cover more of these points in more detail, plus link to an excellent course designed to help specifically with this issue.
Note – In this article, we’re mostly covering more when you’d prefer to, and would, go no contact with a narcissist, but you literally can’t because of unavoidable work/parental/other commitments. If you’re dealing with the separate issue of struggling to go no contact with a narc enough though you could (i.e. being hooked on on them or not wanting to), then we’ll do a separate post on that at some point (see this article for some ideas on this).
Using “Gray Rock” Tactics For Necessary Interactions With A Narcissist
If you must engage in some unavoidable interactions with a narcissist, it’s best to use what’s known as “gray rock” tactics – where you’re deliberately being as plain, boring and uninteresting as possible to get rid of the narcissist as soon as possible (they feed off drama and conflict so you’re effectively starving them of this).
Here are some examples of gray rock tactics to starve a narcissist of supply:
- Be deliberately boring, dull, business-like and uncommunicative with the narcissist whenever engaging.
- Keep interactions short, and withdraw as soon as possible.
- Stick to only the essential topics/things that need dealing with unavoidably, nothing else.
- If there’s specific thing you know they draw narcissistic supply from (eg. belittling or feeling superior to others), don’t feed it to them.
- Don’t feed them any sillyness or entertainment. Stay dull and humorless.
- Don’t reveal anything personal, private, sincere or vulnerable to them. Or anything they can manipulate or use against you. Keep to dull, dry, meaningless factual observations (“oh, that cloud over there seems a bit more grey than the others” – stuff like that).
- Don’t provide them with any drama, nor get sucked into any of their drama. Stick to only the essential topics/things that need dealing with unavoidably.
- Don’t rise to any of their attempts to annoy, provoke or upset you. When it’s clear they’re saying something to you with the intent to wind you up or upset you, respond in a bland, boring way that doesn’t even acknowledge that (tactical naivety). Pretend you don’t even know that’s what they’re doing.
- Ignore any of their attempts to attack you for this new behavior.
- In cases where you must communicate with a narcissist long term (eg. when children are involved), all communication is kept as brief, boring and non dramatic as possible. Use as few words as possible in responses and don’t be drawn into lengthy engagement, disengaging from interactions with them as soon as possible.
- Implement all of these tactics gradually and slowly so the narcissist does not notice – you are slowly withdrawing the “supply” they’ve fed off, getting them to go elsewhere.
See our full article on how to use Gray Rock tactics to starve a narcissist of supply for more information and examples.
Keep The Contact To Prescribed Channels Only
This is another way of cutting off attempts to cause further harm to you – keep the limited communication you have to channels/mediums you control – ZERO social media contact. Do it by phone/email/Whatsapp, and even consider setting up separate “burner” accounts/numbers separate from your others ONLY for contact with the narc, if you can make it work.
The reason for zero social media is that narcissists love to use it for triangulation and to wind you up, even after you’ve split. They’ll bait you with pictures, comments etc, all designed to annoy you and push “jealousy buttons” in you. Social media is the perfect platform for this, so cut it off altogether and only deal with them via channels like text where’s it harder to play their childish games and continue to try and get a rise out of you.
The Definitive Course Of Managing Contact With A Narcissist
Even though it was done a while ago, the best course specifically designed to address this issue of managing contact you must have with a narcissist, is Richard Grannon’s excellent course on “Managing Contact With A Narcissist“, on his older website.
The course contains a main seminar and a bonus “circuit breaker” breathing exercise/visualization video to manage your state, and is packed with useful information and tips to manage contact with a narcissist of other Cluster B disordered person.
Included in the main video you’ll find out:
- In overall terms, some simple rules to understand what the NPD is, how they operate (from denial), and how to deal with them.
- Simple “to the point” principles to help you break any naive beliefs you still hold that there’s “still a real person” trapped inside the NPD who can be “reached” and reasoned with (a very common trap to fall into).
- Some perspectives to help let go of co-dependent beliefs that you “need” the narcissist or they “need” you, and examine the false assumptions (and longings) that underpin these beliefs.
- The one simple rule for how narcissists/sociopaths see ALL interactions with others, and how grind this rule into your sensibilities to be more “streetwise”, and on guard when dealing with them.
- How to be more cunning and clever when dealing with them, instead of being an easy target and an “open book”.
- How narcissists and sociopaths are “fed” by upsetting others, and how avoid falling into this trap.
- How to avoid being provoked and “drawn into” engaging with the narcissist, when you don’t need to be.
- How to limit and shrink down the contact with the narcissist to a bare minimum, to limit any damage they can do.
- How to spot when the narcissist is trying to push “jealousy buttons” with you, and not be drawn in.
- Break any self deceptive thought processes that are keeping you addicted to the narcissist, and therefore justifying un-necessary contact with them.
- A thorough handling of the “gray rock” tactics we covered above, including some more tips and example scenarios, to demonstrate how to respond to NOT feed the narcissist what they want.
- Great NLP style tools and drills to manage and optimize your own mental and emotional state so you won’t be affected so much by any nonsense a narcissist tries on you.
- How to communicate with a narcissist in a way which allows you to get done what needs to be, without provoking them into more obnoxious behavior.
- How to handle communication with the child itself when the narcissist is behaving toxically (smearing you, trying to drive wedges, lying, sending a bad message and bad example to children, etc).
Click here to view and purchase Richard Grannon’s Manage Contact With a Narcissist Course (link is an affiliate link, but I have purchased the course myself and continue to use it).
Even though I’m thankfully no longer in contact with a narcissist myself, I still watch the course myself from time to time as a great refresher on the narcissistic personality, plus how to deal with any that may come along again. It’s also useful if you find yourself falling back into naivety in giving the narcissist another chance, thinking there’s a real person in there you can reason with, etc etc.
There’s also a separate visualization and breathing drill to maintain your own power when dealing the narcissist, and take back any energy they’ve stolen from you, that from personal experiences, works when done with intent. It’s highly recommended viewing on this topic.
Tips For Managing Unavoidable Contact With A Workplace Narcissist
It’s fair to say most cases of having to unavoidably deal with a narcissist are co-parenting scenarios. But one other scenario is when you work for or with a narcissist. What can you do then, if you must have some contact with them?
The general, broad level advice remains largely the same across contexts when dealing with narcissists, but here are some suggestions and tips tailored for dealing with toxic people in the workplace:
Foundational Point – Remain Calm – This is the key point. You must attempt to remain calm in all instances of provocation from the narcissist. If you manage this, they lose. They feed off the emotional reactions of others, so you need to starve them of this and stick to facts and topic at hand, not getting drawn into over-reacting in a way the narcissist can use against you (very common smear tactic). Use whatever methods you can to keep your state positive (exercise, meditation, therapy, affirmations etc) in between dealing with them. The course above has some great tools for that as well.
“One of the biggest things you can do for yourself if you are dealing with someone like this is to always remain calm when dealing with them because what you’ll find with psychopaths and narcissists especially is that they’re trying to provoke you.
They’re trying to provoke reactions so that you look crazy and hysterical and they can then sit back and play victim and say ‘oh look what this person did to me and how crazy they’re acting’.
If you remain calm completely with them, you gain that upper hand. They’re trying to put you on the defensive. They’re trying to make you feel like you’re under attack. So if they say the perfect thing that has you thinking ‘oh my god, I have to respond to that because I have the perfect response, you should know that was intentionally planned”
Jackson Mackenzie – see here.
Documentation – Whenever dealing with a pathological personality in the workplace like a narcissist/psychopath, you are advised to thoroughly and correctly document all instances of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, including breaking rules, provocation, gas-lighting, lying, bad-mouthing (especially if a manager), and so on. See our guide on handling a toxic manager for more tips on this.
Use The Course – The Richard Grannon course linked above does focus a bit more on the co-parenting side of managing contact with a narcissist, but is still very useful for managing contact with a workplace narcissist instead. It covers the core foundational principles of understanding and getting “streetwise” to, narcissism in a way that’s just as useful for workplace contexts. And the “circuit breaker” drill to manage your state is also very useful for dealing with a narc boss, because I’ve used to it myself to great effect several years ago. So I’d recommend it for this as well.
Massage Their Ego – Specifically with narcissist workplace managers, it is sometimes possible to deliberately “feed” them supply in a way that gives them what they want, whilst protecting yourself as well. This can often involve finding the narcissist’s “pet hate” person/thing, and talking about that, or talking about them in comparison to someone/something else. See my article on feeding supply to a narcissist on purpose for some strategic ways this can work with a narc boss, as well as some examples from my own experience. Also covered in the course linked above (an lol section for sure).
Move On – Lastly, it’s arguable that in the wider scheme of things, NO workplace contact with a narcissist/psychopath is 100% “essential” or “unavoidable”, since it’s always with the free will of the other person to simply move on to another job. Whilst you can’t always do it right away when being annoyed and targeted by the narcissist, you can direct your energies towards it, and make a firm decision to move on if you see certain other toxic organizational traits.
If you’re confident any concerns raised will be dealt with fairly, then proceed with documentation. However, also ask yourself some of these questions:
- How long has the narcissist/sociopath been in the position they are in, if a manager?
- Is the company on some level aware of their toxic, provocative, reaction seeking behavior, but have chosen to keep tolerating them for that period of time?
- Do the higher levels of management also not behave in the most ethical and dignified ways towards others?
- Is the quality of the workforce overall not the best? (lots of poor quality, apathetic types easily manipulated and controlled by the narcissist?)
- Is there lots of toxic behaviors like lying, back-stabbing, politics, malicious gossip, smear campaigns, bullying, gas-lighting, and so on?
- Is the job itself starting to affect your state more and more out of work?
If you’re answering yes to some or all of these questions, it could be a sign you need to reject the entire company you’re working for, not just that one narcissist/sociopath, and move onto something better. Once workplace cultures have turned toxic, they don’t usually turn back.