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When Should You “Gray Rock” the Narcissists in Your Life


Illustration for the article titled When You Should

Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)

Sometimes when an emotionally manipulative person seeks to cause drama, you may want to offer a response that is proportionate to their behavior. Except that you should really consider doing the opposite: namely, pretend there is nothing you can offer in terms of engagement and stay as placid as a lake on a windless afternoon.

Truly manipulative people, and likewise those with narcissistic personality disorder, lead to conflict and chaos. In order to deprive their fighting fire of its true life force, consider “rocking them gray,” which, yes, involves acting like you’re as mundane as a stone.

What is gray rock?

Gray rock is all about making yourself as uninteresting as possible in an effort to extricate yourself from potential conflict. It’s not quite the same as giving cold shoulder, although it may seem so at a glance. Emotional obstruction, after all, is something totally unwarranted when it occurs, while the gray rock method is almost a form of survival.

As a therapist Ellen Biros told Healthline, “This strategy is to become the most boring and uninteresting person you can be when you interact with a manipulative person.”

It is not exactly ignore the other person, per se, but rather as an emotional detachment to such an extent that the behavior of the manipulative person is beyond you. This may not be a necessary practice for most people, but it is particularly applicable to survivors of domestic violence who must come into contact with their abusers.

Therapist Shannon Thomas told the insider that acting as boring as a rock robs the person of the conflict it causes, or, at least, it suggests that you don’t have exciting chaos to offer.

She explained:

The gray rock technique removes the drama from the interaction, in the hope that the toxic person will look elsewhere for their drug addiction to create tension for their entertainment.

It sounds simple enough, but “being boring” might not be the simplest or most discernible instruction, so it helps to familiarize yourself with the gray rock technique.

How to intoxicate someone

The key is not to engage and disengage, but without completely ignoring the other person. Vague and one-word answers to most questions should suffice. Eye contact is discouraged because you don’t want this person to have the idea that you are ready to play the game. In order to stay focused, especially if the person repeatedly tries to get your attention, try using another activity as a distraction. It could involve looking at your phone or reading a book, essentially anything that doesn’t fuel the other person’s need for validation.

Keeping your interactions brief is also a necessity. This is something that applies more easily to people who have to interact with abusers or manipulative ex-partners, for example. The recourse here is to keep interactions short and your responses brief.

Healthline also recommends talking as much as possible via text message, if you absolutely must communicate with the person you are trying to intoxicate, by writing:

Communicating electronically or by phone can work well here, as it allows you to avoid prolonged interactions that could cause stress and make it more difficult to maintain a gray rock facade. But the gray toggle can work for any type of communication.

The Gray Rock Method is a form of damage control and a great tactic to try out if you ever feel the need to.

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