“Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.”
In Part I, we discussed dealing with a narcissist ex with professional politeness, as a savvy customer service representative might deal with a customer. We recommended setting boundaries around what conversation topics would be acceptable and how to deliver “low and slow” sentences to establish and maintain your boundaries.
In Part II, we’ll continue the discussion by explaining why you should be wary of using “x-y” statements, what to do about social media, and define the grey rock method.
Avoid “when you do x, I feel y” statements.
Using the “when you do x, I feel y” template can be a useful communication tool for addressing sensitive topics with a trusted friend. However, if your ex has a history of love-bombing and future-faking, and if you have a history of falling for it, then you should avoid x-y statements.
If your narcissist is trying to engage you in any way (cheerful, angry, or needy), then you should be wary of engaging in the non-professional conversation that would begin with “when you do x, I feel y.” Would the savvy customer service rep respond this way to a difficult client? No.
These kinds of x-y statements, or similar bids for intimacy, can serve an important role in a healthy or healing relationship. You might have been encouraged to use them during any pre-divorce marriage counseling. You might use them to good effect now with your children, friends, or colleagues. But they often backfire with narcissists. Why?
Some narcissists thrive off of comments like, “when you do x (lose your temper, lie, stand me up), I feel y (scared, disappointed, lonely).” A narcissist will use this sentence as an invitation to explain why the indiscretion happened (make excuses), promise it will never happen again (future fake), and compliment or comfort you (love bomb).
Dealing with a narcissist ex is not the time to make bids for intimacy. Your narcissist ex has forfeited her or his right to access your deepest feelings. When dealing with your ex, don’t take the bait to engage in sharing feelings or arguing. Simply state what you expect in the future in a professional, pleasant manner without disclosing your own feelings on the matter.
Would a savvy customer service rep maintain social media ties with clients? No. No – not with regular customers, not with demanding customers. Neither should you keep social media contacts open with your narcissist ex.
Block the social media accounts of your narcissist ex. In cases of shared contacts, such as your kids, block their comments so that you can still see your kid’s social media posts without seeing your ex’s comments.
Sometimes a narcissist ex will try to bait you and engage you, but other times a narcissist ex will drop you and your kids with an astounding lack of feeling. Narcissists are more likely to quickly move on to a new relationship, leaving their more sensitive partner (you) to move through a more normal and healthy grieving process. Whether your narcissist ex is trying to draw you back in, or whether he or she has already moved on, it’s time for you to disengage from any social media contact.
Use “low and slow” words to explain your boundaries. Get your lawyer involved as required. As time passes, you will feel less and less of an interest in what your narcissist ex is doing on social media.
The analogy of a “grey rock” is often employed to help recovering spouses understand how to make decisions about dealing with a narcissist ex. Responding like a grey rock means responding with a minimum of words and all the feeling of a grey rock. If you can’t go “no contact” because of shared custody or other necessary negotiations, then the grey rock method might fit the bill for you.
Grey rock. Low and slow. The savvy customer service rep. It will take time for you to build a new skill set. Be patient with yourself along the way, and little by little, you’ll create a life of freedom and purpose that your narcissist ex can’t touch.
Dealing with a narcissist ex presents its own set of problems, especially if you have children. Remember, being rude and unpleasant is not a good long-term strategy for dealing with a narcissist ex, no matter how much they deserve it, no matter how good it might feel in the moment to lash out.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that “going high” means “forgiving and forgetting.” You would be exercising poor judgment to treat your narcissist ex with the same personal politeness that you treat a trusted friend, someone who has never lied to you, never stood you up, never made false promises, lost their temper, or taken advantage of your goodwill.
“Going high” with your narcissist ex involves learning a new set of habits which are less familial and more professional than what you have used in the past. Responding with professional politeness will feel unfamiliar at first, but will become easier and easier with time. You can be polite and pleasant – and professional – with a narcissist ex.
For more information on outsmarting a narcissist, check out my YouTube channel. You’ll find a wealth of actionable tips for negotiating your best life.