How to Use the Grey Rock Method for Toxic Behaviours

The grey rock method is a technique that is used to deal with the toxic behaviours of others. It is often recommended to people who want to reduce the amount of toxic behaviour from the other person and also need to protect themselves from the psychological effects of the abusive behaviour. If you have someone in your life who has narcissistic or psychopathic traits this technique can help.

On my clinic blog, an old post called “Psychopath or Narcissist” gets the most hits. I’m not an expert in personality disorders so it’s somewhat surprising. A likely reason is that many people are interested to learn more about the difficult people in their lives. Often they want to know what is wrong with the person they are experiencing trouble with. They suspect that something is up due to the extreme behaviours of a family member, colleague or acquaintance.

The Grey Rock Method

The grey rock method involves a number of behavioural choices that are used in response to the abusive, controlling or manipulative behaviours of the toxic person. The idea is that you keep your head down like a grey rock and blend into the landscape. You starve the abusive person of any rewards they might get from their toxic behaviour by remaining neutral.  The toxic person will not find interactions with you stimulating and will tend to move on to someone else to get what they need instead. The grey rock behaviours include:

  • speaking with a monotone voice
  • giving short, matter of fact answers to questions
  • talking about boring or inconsequential subjects
  • not engaging with the toxic person’s insults
  • not making eye contact with the toxic person
  • not giving away personal information
  • not displaying any interest in the toxic person (this includes not getting caught up in dramatic stories designed to hook you)

The upside of grey rock:

  • It works very well if you do it consistently.
  • It is useful for people that you can’t avoid contact with the person.
  • It is simple and something most people can learn.

The downsides of grey rock:

  • Grey rock takes practice and consistency. I have utilised it with good effect but it does not come naturally to me as I have to watch that I don’t slip into offering warmth, being chattiness or getting caught up in the persons’ dramatic stories.
  •  If the person becomes aware you are using grey rock it could lead to trouble. Particularly people with high narcissistic or psychopathic traits will likely respond with either an explosion of abusive behaviours or make it their goal to wear you down. So keep grey rock on the down low, avoid telling your toxic person you’re going to “grey rock” them, or any other such announcement.

If you have learned the psychological forcefield technique with me in your sessions, you may prefer this technique to grey rock. I plan to talk about this in an upcoming post. Here’s a short video of me talking about Grey Rock and how it works.

 

The Grey Rock Technique

The grey rock technique involves a number of behavioural choices you implement in response to the abusive, controlling or manipulative behaviours of the toxic person. The idea is that you keep your head down like a grey rock and blend into the landscape. The toxic person will move on to someone else to get what they need instead. These behaviours include:

  • speaking with a monotonous voice
  • giving short, matter of fact answers to questions
  • talking about boring or inconsequential subjects
  • not engaging with the abuser’s taunts
  • not making eye contact with the abuser
  • not giving away personal information
  • not displaying any interest in the abuser.

Grey rock takes practice and preparation. I have utilised it with good effect but it does not come naturally for my natural empathy loving chatty persona. If you choose this technique, it is important that the abuser does not become aware that this is a technique, as sometimes it can backfire, leading to an explosion of abusive behaviours. So keep it on the down low, avoid telling your toxic person you’re going to “grey rock” them, or any other such announcement.

About Nadene van der Linden

Nadene van der Linden is a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is the author of Tales from the parenting trenches. A clinical psychologist vs motherhood and Live life to the full. Your guide to feeling better sooner.
Help others access these tips by sharing this article via