The grey rock method is becoming a more well-known practice for dealing with people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or who exhibit toxic or self-centered traits. These people may consistently strive for attention, always need to be admired by others, and have difficulty receiving criticism or setbacks. Narcissistic personalities can present as grandiose, suspicious, and cynical and attempt to control, scheme, and manipulate others. If you have a narcissist in your life, then you know it can be very challenging, and you may even experience abuse.
One method that many mental health practitioners encourage is cutting contact completely; however, this might not always be possible for varying reasons (like a colleague at work, for example). Suppose you’re in a position where you can’t cut contact with a narcissist. In that case, the grey rock method can be an excellent alternative for protecting yourself from any kind of narcissistic abuse.
What is the Grey Rock Method?
The grey rock method uses the metaphor of a grey rock and is a technique that helps a person deflect further abuse from a loved one. If we could sum up the technique in one sentence, it would be: acting as dull as possible during encounters with the abuser.
‘Grey rock’ behavior includes providing little input and avoiding reacting or engaging with the other person’s manipulations or attempts to get a rise out of you. Essentially, you want to be as dull and uninteresting as possible (like a plain grey rock).
How to Use the Grey Rock Method
When you first think about using the grey rock method, you’ll want to make sure you avoid telling the person that’s what you are doing. This could further anger them and cause them to act out.
Here are some grey rock method techniques:
- Nodding and shrugging
- Implementing noncommittal phrases and responses (for example, “mhm” or “uh-huh”)
- Avoiding any eye contact
- Responding briefly to questions
- Ending or leaving interactions quickly (if it is safe to do so)
- Disconnecting and focusing your attention on an activity or something else
Using this method on Narcissists
For many people, they may encounter a person with narcissistic traits in any area of life, including:
- romantic partnerships
Remember that the grey rock method is not a long-term solution for personal relationships, but it can help you in the moment when dealing with that person. You can also implement it if you have to deal with someone who enjoys getting reactions from others.
If you are living with someone with NPD or toxic traits, it may not be possible to always use the grey rock method at all times of the day. Instead, it may be more useful to use it during challenging times, like discussing finances, for example.
What is a Narcissist? This article outlines everything that you need to know about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Is the Grey Rock Method Effective?
Even though the “grey rock method” itself hasn’t been studied much in scientific research, the skills from it are based on behavioral psychology methods. More specifically, it is rooted in the concept of extinction.
Extinction is defined as when a behavior doesn’t have the desired effect, then the behavior stops. For example, in reference to the grey rock method, when a person is engaging in abusive behavior but doesn’t receive the response they want, then they may stop doing the abusive behavior.
Grey rocking may result in making the person engaging in toxic behavior feel bored, confused, or frustrated. Since they don’t get the reaction they are looking for, they may try other methods to get the desired response. These can include:
- Making up a crisis to get support from you
- Start acting nice towards you so that you’ll let your guard down
- Having their behavior escalate and get worse
Sometimes, their behavior can worsen before it gets better, known as an extinction burst.
However, after the escalation stage, their behaviors can start to improve.
When to use the Grey Rock Method
As we have described so far, the grey rock method can be a good solution for interaction with people who use toxic or emotionally abusive tactics; however, it may be best used short-term.
If you are in a relationship that is draining your emotional energy or putting you in a dangerous position, ending the relationship may be the best option. But, if that isn’t possible, then this method can help get you out of the cycle of manipulation. For example, if a person continually notices that they can’t get a rise out of you, they may stop attempting.
When to Not use the Grey Rock Method
Even though the grey rock method can be effective, it is not safe in every situation. For example, you shouldn’t use it if:
- You are in a long-term romantic relationship with someone that is emotionally abusive.
- Your partner has started to escalate. Escalation is when the abuse gets worse. It can come on gradually or suddenly.
If someone in your life exhibits symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, then you’ll want to protect yourself as best as you can. Having a solid support system can help you cope.
In addition, you may want to seek professional help like counseling or therapy. The grey rock method can leave you feeling emotionally and mentally drained. If you don’t talk about your feelings or hide them, you can feel further isolated and not have a healthy outlet for all your emotions. A mental health professional can help you set boundaries, process your feelings, and lessen the impact that these toxic behaviors have on your emotional and mental well-being.
At LGBTQ AND ALL, we offer a variety of resources for our readers that can help them cope with all sorts of mental health topics. Be sure to navigate our resources if you are looking for help in dealing with a narcissistic person.