Ignoring a narcissist seems pretty simple on paper, but when it comes time to know how to ignore a narcissist the right way, many people get it wrong.
You can probably relate to the following situation.
You stand there motionless as the narcissist in your life hurls insults at you – again.
You need to fight back and defend yourself, right?
The problem is, that’s exactly what the narcissist wants you to do so they can continue sucking you into the Narcissistic Vortex. So you resolve to give them the cold shoulder for a while and respond to their texts with one-word answers. That will surely teach them a lesson.
Except, in reality, it won’t because narcissists don’t process and experience emotions as average people do. Therefore, the effects of ignoring a narcissist won’t play out in real life as it has in your mind.
In fact, it will likely backfire in the long-run. There’s a very specific time and place to effectively ignore a narcissist. Unfortunately, most people get it wrong.
Still, complete liberation from narcissistic abuse is possible.
And with a comprehensive narcissistic abuse recovery program, you can come out the other side stronger than ever.
But first, let’s talk about what happens when you ignore a narcissist, how to avoid the misapplication of the popular Gray Rock method, and what everyone needs to know about ignoring a narcissist that ignores you.
Ignoring a Narcissist: How Most People Get It Wrong
If you’ve spent any amount of time researching how to ignore a narcissist, you’ve likely come across the Grey Rock method at some point.
The Grey Rock method suggests victims of narcissistic abuse should behave, well, like a grey rock: simply go about your day making yourself as boring and emotionless to the narcissist as possible. If the narcissist can’t get their ego “fix” from occupying your attention, they’ll eventually get bored and seek attention somewhere else.
The goal is to continue communicating with the narcissist without falling into their trap: the endless cycle of fighting and abuse, more aptly referred to as the Narcissistic Vortex.
If we’re speaking purely theoretically, this should work.
After all, there’s no reason you can’t just start ignoring a narcissist and only speak to them when it’s absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, like most interpersonal relationship problems, it’s really not so simple.
“They want your attention – just stop giving it to them” sounds remarkably like “you have a drinking problem – so just stop drinking” or “he is hitting you – so just leave.” This strategy doesn’t work for other types of abusive relationships and addictions.
So why on earth do we expect it to work with a narcissist?
Not to mention, can we talk for a second about how insulting it is for an abuse victim to simply turn themselves into a boring shell of a person just to avoid the wrath of a narcissist?
It’s true that there are situations where you simply cannot remove the narcissist from your life due to legal or employment obligations. However, these situations do not make up the majority of narcissistic abuse cases.
Ignoring a Narcissist is Not the Best Revenge
Ignoring a narcissist should be a last resort: a tactic you use in situations where you have no other choice.
It should not be your go-to strategy.
Chances are, the narcissist in your life has spent months, years, or even decades hurting you every chance they get. They manipulate your emotions into believing they’re the victim and you’re the bad guy – even when you bring up situations where they’ve very clearly harmed you.
Once you have a moment of clarity and start to identify their manipulative behavioral patterns, it’s very natural to start craving revenge.
They’ve made you suffer through horrible emotions like worthlessness, guilt, and shame – all for the crime of wanting to be loved and respected like any human deserves (and to the narcissist’s benefit nonetheless).
Who wouldn’t want to inflict hurtful emotions back onto them?
It’s important to remember that this approach won’t accomplish what you’re hoping it will because you’re striving to appeal to the narcissist’s emotions, assuming they would feel the same way you do. But, emotions are simply tools the narcissist uses to manipulate others: they react to things in order to elicit a specific reaction from you.
Don’t be fooled: their emotions are never genuine and they’ll use your emotions against you later.
That’s why ignoring a narcissist won’t work.
Any rehabilitated alcoholic knows that you can’t stop drinking but keep a bottle of wine in the cabinet for cooking or a liquor bottle on the counter for company. In fact, someone with years of recovery would laugh at these notions.
(And just like alcoholism, a narcissistic abuse recovery program can make the difference between sobriety and relapse.)
Before moving forward, you need to completely write off the idea that you will ever get revenge – or even closure – for the abuse you suffered at the hands of the narcissist.
Your revenge will be living a happy, functioning life free from narcissistic abuse.
And it will feel better than any revenge or false sense of closure.
What You Need to Know About Ignoring a Narcissist Who Ignores You
The oldest trick in the book that doesn’t work: ignoring a narcissist who ignores you.
Lots of therapists, books, and websites will tell you that this is the best way to deal with a narcissist. This harmful advice suggests that by ignoring the narcissist, you can hit them where it hurts: their ego.
Stop giving them their fix and they’ll go somewhere else to get it.
The problem with this approach is that you’re also hoping to get a fix out of this as well: a brief moment of love and affection from the empty-hearted narcissist. Ignoring a narcissist who ignores you only encourages them to hoover. They know that you want respect, dignity, and love so they will exhibit behaviors that fool you into thinking they really have changed.
But these behaviors are completely contrived to suck you back in like a Hoover vacuum. This false compassion is entirely performative.
Contrary to popular belief, narcissists do have empathy. It’s just not the compassionate kind we normally associate with the term. This dangerous concept known as cognitive empathy is frequently utilized by professional torturers to objectively get inside a victim’s head and manipulate emotions for their own gain.
Some time might have passed but it doesn’t mean your abuser is no longer a narcissist. After a short period of phony love and remorse, the abusive and manipulative behavior will come right back.
6 Steps to Ignoring a Narcissist Who Tries to Punish You
Attempting to ignore a narcissist, implementing the Gray Rock method, or going “no response” should never be your first line of defense.
Those strategies do nothing but feed into the narcissist’s cycle of abuse.
Here are a few steps you can take to precede your comprehensive narcissistic abuse recovery program without allowing them to hoover and suck you back in.
- No Contact. Going cold turkey isn’t easy but honestly, it’s the only permanent solution. You have to end the communication and relationship for good. No windows or loopholes for texts, emails, or phone calls – cut them out completely.
- Recognize your attachment to the relationship. You need to admit that you’re also getting something out of this relationship. Why else would you stay for so long? We tend to crave the narcissist’s rare affection like a drug fix – and there’s never enough to satisfy because it’s never genuine love.
- Don’t blame yourself. Remember that the narcissist does not experience emotions like you do. When they hurl insults, they’re trying to strike you where it hurts because that’s what’s worked for them in the past. Don’t listen to them and don’t give them the satisfaction. You deserve to be treated with respect and responding to their insults will only suck you back in.
- Admit that you need help. Just like with drug and alcohol recovery, you can’t do this alone without relapsing. One day you’ll cave and answer their text with a one-word answer. Before you know it, you’ll be back in the same cycle of abuse. Find a narcissistic abuse recovery program to help and surround yourself with supportive people.
- Identify your limitations. If the narcissist in your life is a coworker or co-parent, you might not be able to cut them out completely. These are the only situations where implementing the Gray Rock method or minimal contact is acceptable. Give only straightforward answers when absolutely necessary like one-word answers, times, and dates. However, you still need a strategy to avoid the narcissist’s hoovering and your own relapse.
- Implement other tools. Consider using communication monitoring apps as a third-party buffer between you and the narcissist. It will help keep your interactions minimal and robotic – like they should be. If an app isn’t the best idea for your situation, employ a trusted friend (or professional) to act as a liaison.
Consider a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program
A narcissist will never see the error of their ways and you shouldn’t expect them to.
You can’t control their behaviors – you can only control your own.
Ignoring a narcissist who ignores you doesn’t work because it’s too easy for the narcissist to play on your compassion and take advantage of your desire to be respected and loved.
By taking the steps to implement a narcissistic abuse recovery program, you can effectively go “No Contact” (or minimal contact when absolutely necessary) and liberate yourself from the abuse for good.
You deserve it and you’ll come out stronger and happier in the long run.
If you feel miserable and trapped in your relationship, that’s a problem that likely won’t improve on its own. Join the many wonderful folks in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp who have finally found freedom and are healing their own lives.
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