‘Gray Rocking’ Is a Tactic That Some People Use to Deal With Narcissists

Philip Ellis
Photo credit: Sonia Levi / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sonia Levi / EyeEm - Getty Images

From Men's Health

Psychologist and clinical therapist Dr. Ramani Durvasula specializes in helping people identify if they have a narcissist in their life, and offering tools for coping with narcissistic behavior. These include ways to avoid confronting a narcissist about the way they treat people, and translating what a narcissist actually means when they apologize.

One highly useful technique that Durvasula recommends in order to distance yourself from a narcissist and extricate yourself from those kinds of harmful relationships is the "gray rock."

"Gray rock is, in essence, exactly what it sounds like: you become completely inert," she says. "It's really a metaphor for not engaging, for really being something that a narcissist will hopefully look right through... When you're in the presence of a narcissist, you can almost sit like a statue; calm, serene, not going to engage with the BS, basically."

Going full gray rock is harder than it sounds. It means not talking to that person, not arguing with them, but not fully cutting them out of your life. "It's as close to no contact as can be, while still having a little bit of contact," says Durvasula.

"When you gray rock them, you stop being a robust source of narcissistic supply. It's almost like you were once a full well, and now you're not giving them validation at the level they want, or the other things that in a weird, perverse way they enjoy too. Things like arguments, conflict, or times when you show your own insecurity."

When you have a standing relationship with a narcissist, where you've previously been very engaged and been a source of validation, they are going to notice pretty quickly. And what's likely to happen, says Durvasula, is that they'll become argumentative, combative and demeaning. The challenge here is to remain calm and not rise to the bait and feed into that conflict, which is exactly what they want.

"The trick when doing gray rock is to endure this initial period of agitation, because they don't like it," she says. "They don't like that the water is coming out of the faucet like a trickle, when they're used to full blast."

If, on the other hand, this is a relatively new relationship, and you've picked up on a person's narcissistic behavior early, going gray rock is still a valid tactic. "In that situation, the narcissist may actually disappear pretty quickly, which is why gray rocking early in the game is such a great strategy," says Durvasula.

"What you're showing pretty early on is that nothing but a trickle of water is ever going to come out of your faucet; that you're not a reliable, predictable source of narcissistic supply. That narcissist may move on before they can do damage to you."

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