What will he (or she) do this time?

It’s Narcissist Friday (a little early)    

(I rerun this post occasionally, hoping to offer some encouragement for those who have to handle holidays with narcissistic people.  Although the references are to a male narcissist, we all understand that wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, and other women can be narcissistic as well.  Please understand that this is not meant to empower the narcissist, but to help you have a reasonable holiday.  This is about you and your family/friends.  I would not suggest these for normal use in a narcissistic relationship, but these things might help to make the narcissist’s presence bearable for you and others.  I hope this helps you to have a blessed holiday.)


Narcissists aren’t very good about holidays or family gatherings.  Unless they can be the center of attention, they sulk or tell odd jokes or intrude on conversations or something strange.  He might even flirt with your sister!  Chances are the narcissist doesn’t know what he will do until he gets there.

You, on the other hand, can plan ahead.  Play this like a game and you may find yourself in a better position to win.  Here are some ideas:

  •  Keep comparisons to a minimum.  Family gatherings are often filled with comparisons of anything from kids to cars to dinner entrees.  Comparisons are to the narcissist like gasoline is to the fire.  If you can find some way to keep conversations away from comparisons, you may avoid some tense situations.
  • Remember that the narcissist needs attention and affirmation.  To sit and watch others love each other is painful for him.  Love, for him, is being told how wonderful he is.  Now, you can do this for him.  You can tell some things to your family that build him up in their eyes.  I know this will be hard for some to read, but remember your goal is to have a peaceful, even happy, time with your family.  Be sure you tell these good things in front of him and don’t let him be put on the spot.  If he embellishes the story or the accomplishment, don’t contradict him.  Let him have his time.
  • Give him small victories.  If he wins some things he may not need to win them all.  Let him choose some of the dinner entrees or set the time for the meal.  You know.  Victory affirms him.  When you think that he seems to want to change and control everything, maybe he would be satisfied with a few victories.  Try to do things or talk about things where he has knowledge.  Leaving him with your “know-it-all” brother to watch Jeopardy might be as uncomfortable for him as talking with Aunt Edna about how a turkey “should” be cooked would be for you.  Never forget that the narcissist feels inferior and deals with that feeling by making everyone believe he is superior.
  • Tell him straight out that you want to have some time with your family and ask him what would be best for him.  In other words, set your boundaries and inform him that they will be kept, but let him have a way to express his needs.  This is tricky.  He will see your boundaries as a challenge, so you may have to exaggerate a little in order to get what you want.  For example, he may say that he needs to go for a drive.  Let him.  Don’t worry about him.  He will come back for you and you will have time with your loved ones.

In our frustration with the narcissist, it is easy to forget that he or she has needs also.  In fact, his needs are actually stronger and more uncompromising than yours.  He is just very bad at dealing with his needs.  If you want a happier holiday time, you might find success by playing his game.  You don’t have to compromise yourself.  One of your boundaries is that anything you do for him must never compromise who you are.  But if you want to keep a relationship with him and with your family, you will probably have to find ways to meet his needs.

And, if at the outset he says that he has no intention of going with you for the visit, then go by yourself.  You choose.  What seems like an attempt to control you may be a statement of abject fear from him.  He just has to say it in a way that doesn’t betray the fear.

I understand that some will have trouble reading this and I admit that I have had some trouble writing it.  These people make us angry and we want to get back at them.  But is your family visit the time for that?  Probably not.  You will have to carefully evaluate the things I have written above to see if they make sense for you.  Maybe you can come up with something for your own situation that I haven’t mentioned.

It didn’t seem right to post this after Thanksgiving.  I pray that your holiday time will be good.


(Again, I understand that this sounds like giving in to the childish and controlling behavior of the narcissist.  Perhaps it is, but only for one day.  The point is to help you have a better holiday celebration with family or friends.  There.  Have I said that enough?)

Maybe some of you can offer ideas for others here.  What worked for you?



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16 responses to “What will he (or she) do this time?

  1. Thank you, Pastor Dave, for posting this today, and for all you do for those of us who have been wounded by the narcissists among us. I hope you and your family have a lovely Thanksgiving.

    I won’t be spending this holiday with any narcissists, for which I am grateful. However, four days ago I had an up close and personal encounter with someone I believe is a narcissist. This happened at a funeral, of all places! Apparently, narcissists have to be the center of attention all the time, every where, even at funerals. My tongue was sore from all the biting I had to do!

  2. Diana

    Oh no, this would be too painful in ways you don’t understand. However I will be using the hell out of the Gray Rock Method. My sanity is more important to me and my fuction in this family than kowtowing to the Poor Baby Narcisist😊

    • JD

      Wjat is the Grey Rock method?

      • Diana may have her own answer for you, but the Gray Rock idea is for you to become nothing of interest to the narcissist, a plain gray rock. Answer with non-committal statements, giving little or no information. No eye contact that might open the door to fight or flirt. Keep your distance by offering or promising nothing useful to the narcissist. He/she will ignore you and focus on others, maybe.

        It is an interesting idea that I have not written about, but I have trouble seeing how it would be useful for a spouse or parent or sibling. I can see how it would work with that obnoxious brother-in-law or niece or neighbor. Most painful narcissistic relationships are too close for a sudden change to a simple gray rock. The N has already learned the ways to get under your skin.

        Now, I am open to learning more here. If this has worked for you with someone close, I’d love to hear it. Maybe mom will ignore you while she focuses on other siblings. Maybe the ex will ignore you while he fawns over the children or his new girlfriend. And it may work for a limited time period, like a holiday get-together, where you leave after a few hours. So I am certainly not dismissing it.

        My post was meant for a close or intimate narcissistic relationship, but there are many others who can be encountered during the holidays.

      • I’ve successfully used the grey rock method with my narcissistic ex-spouse only at certain times for certain things. Once he learned that he could not get a “rise” out of me about that particular thing, he’d move on and save his “rise-getting” behavior for more hurtful things. I only learned to apply this term later, though. When first did it, it was intuitive to me from the way I would treat a little brother. If I’d had a stronger picture of how that worked and why, I might have been able to apply it more broadly, I don’t know. But as you say, Pastor Dave, the application of this method is very limited for a close relationship. It flies in the face of honesty and openness and intimacy. The sad truth, though, as you’ve so often told us, is that narcissists can’t do any of those things so you lose with them no matter what you do.

  3. JD

    I suggest focusing on everyone and everything but the narcissist. Ignore him, her or they. Have a good time with others. Pay attention to the kids. If conversation goes in a wrong direction. Physically remove yourself from it. Do it with a smile. Lie if you have to. Don’t burden anyone with your negative feelings or awful knowledge of the truth. It’s not about you either. Holidays and family get togethers are not the time or place to fix or hash things out. Be a peace keeper…like always. But don’t look at it as defeat. Look at it like you are the bigger person, because you are. If the narcissist is harrassing or endangering others, remove that person physically, if possible. And then call the cops if necessary. Be a leader. A happy one. A smart one.

    I wish you all peace and joy.

  4. SAM

    Helpful, practical ideas. Good to read again with the holidays coming up.
    Thank you and have a blessed Thanksguving with your family!

  5. I’ve never heard of the gray rock method, but it’s what I do! I feared being rude. What a relief to know I’m doing something right.

  6. Phoebe

    Thank you Pastor Dave. Blessings to you. Happy Thanksgiving. Your blog has been a healing source for me , my husband and a close friend who have all had to deal with this personality. Prayers for all who are engaged within a narcissist and wisdom as well to deal with each individual situation. God had been veer faithful with my husband’s mom who passed away this year. A true narcissist that we lived with most of our married life. We took care of her after her stroke… she was fangless then. No regrets as God taught us through it even when we didn’t always make good wise decisions in dealing with her. God allowed another narcissist in our lives. But he is at a distance. We love him dearly despite all but will not enable bad behavior. We trust God alone. Thank you for your service Dave.

  7. me

    The gray rock method is best used with an ex-spouse that you share children with. It’s taken me 3 years to cultivate it and to learn not to react to my ex-husband, and I find that it is a great way of maintaining my self-respect and not feeding his narcissism. If he can’t get a rise out of me, he doesn’t try so much.

  8. Julie

    Diana I totally agree with your post. I wrote a good while ago now when I had left the narcissist my x and our little girls father. He still trys manipulating . deceiving and controlling us via the phone and the useof money. Not that I am a lover of money we left one night with a carrier bag with our clothes in and he also and his friends gang members voilated me and my three grown up children until they terrorised us got my house and £60,000 pound profit and had everyone believe at that time I had pyschosis which i didn’t, My family are not deceived any more and are convinced he is very dark spiritually. I do not want him at our home causing us to be miserable it is the first christmas we are together has a family and he notspoiling that. I have decided he is not welcome and neither are the spirits he aquaints his self with through my door Amen

    • Yes, Julie, I totally agree! I don’t want my ex in my home either. He does associate with certain spirits, by his own admission, even while still claiming to be Christian. I don’t want that anywhere near me any more!

  9. Julie

    And can I just add that I have just found out that his nephew and I know he was behind it as well have set up a paypal account using my details and money was leaving my account not that I earn a big salary, they have proofed it was fraud.

  10. Savedbygrace

    Dearest Julie praying you will know peace, love and joy as you surround yourself with family and friends who love and support you . Stay firm in the knowledge of the truth and put in place firm boundaries to keep you and your daughter safe. Gray rock sounds like a good plan for you!
    A Domestic Violence shelter/advisor can help you if he crosses the boundaries – as well as physical safety, even how to keep your finances safe online.
    God Bless

  11. Pamela Kay De Smet

    I absolutely LOVED this. Thank YOU SO MUCH. I am dealing with an extreme Narcissist EX-husband still in my life, these tips will work for many tight spots, even more than the Holidays 🙂 Though I certainly would not want to overdo this 🙂 THANK YOU, SO MUCH !!! I NEEDED to read this TODAY 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing this post!

    P.S. Article on Gray rock method explained well. May you all be blessed with peace in your heart; despite the abscence or distance of your narcissists.

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