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When Grey Rock Doesn't Work

Dealing with a narcissist and what is grey rocking? by Lorraine Jones

Photo by lilartsy from Pexels

Often, when you are in a manipulative or abusive relationship with a narcissist it can be difficult to cut them out of your life cold turkey. If you have kids with them, or they are a family member, co-worker, or someone in your social circle, removing all communication isn't always an option. This is where the grey rock method comes in. The goal of this tactic is to present yourself as uninteresting and unresponsive by essentially acting like a grey rock. It aims to diminish that person’s abusive or controlling behavior by making them lose interest.

Related articles: Ending Toxic Relationships

Grey rock helps shrug off toxic relationships. By making communication as minimal as possible and ignoring attempts at baiting, you create an emotional detachment. “Give brief replies to questions, such as ‘yes, no, or I don't remember’ when communicating with the abusive individual. During conversations, use straightforward, factual statements and refrain from revealing honest opinions or facts. This keeps the discussion from becoming too personal,” said Michelle Devani, a relationship expert and founder of

This strategy is easiest to implement when starting small and easing into it. Minimize verbal exchanges, try to avoid interactions if possible. “When you first respond with the grey rock method it will surprise the narcissist and they will likely turn up the intensity in their interaction with you to facilitate a reaction from you. When this happens your goal is to stay calm, neutral, and unaffected. It’s no different than a toddler having a temper tantrum—don’t be swayed or moved by the theatrics.

Eventually, when the narcissist can no longer get the reaction to fuel their supply they will completely reject you and move on to another host for their supply,” said Janika Veasley, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Completely ignoring this person can add fuel to the fire. All contact has to be concise and deliberate. Conversations should consist of simple and required topics only. Such as decision-making and logistics when co-parenting with a narcissist. Surface-level conversations and one-word responses make it possible to disconnect from the trigger and closes the emotional front door of the relationship. You are taking away the power of the narcissist.

This coping mechanism is not a scientifically proven method, so it may not always be effective and can potentially have unexpected outcomes.


Grey rock may not work if you let your emotions get the best of you and you self-sabotage the situation. Resist your previous emotional connection with this person. Don’t abandon your plans for communication because you are under the impression they are remorseful, have realized the error in their ways, or are open to feedback and reconciliation. “When you abandon the plan and give them a reaction it signifies that they can still get their supply met by you and that you’re still very much invested in the façade they have created,” said Veasley.

This psychological warfare has its risks and payoffs. It can be both physically and emotionally draining. “By constantly trying to conceal your feelings and emotions, you are putting yourself at risk of experiencing a complete disconnect to your feelings and emotions,” said Sonya Schwartz, founder of Her Norm

If you notice this is impacting your well-being, find effective ways to cope. Prioritize emotional self-care! Mental check-ins are important when dealing with a narcissist. Surround yourself with supportive allies. Build a community around you to lean on to prevent yourself from becoming isolated. Protect your mental health by diminishing the manipulative and hostile actions towards you. Help shield yourself from emotional harm by transforming into a grey rock.


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