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Having a conversation with someone difficult and want to disengage? Try the ‘grey rock’ method

Having a conversation with someone difficult and want to disengage? Try the ‘grey rock’ method


Take a moment to imagine a small grey rock sitting in the palm of your hand. It’s silent, smooth and otherwise unremarkable.

Are you bored yet? If so, that’s kind of the point.

Most people will eventually lose interest in a dull piece of granite. So there’s a theory percolating online that if you adopt the qualities of a stone, becoming impassive and bland, then you will repel the argumentative, antagonistic people in your life who are itching for conflict.

It’s called the “grey rock” method, and over the last decade it has spread on social media, including among TikTok influencers, who have shared strategies to channel your inner rock. It even surfaced on a recent episode of the reality show Vanderpump Rules, when a cast member, Ariana Madix, said that using the technique had helped her avoid toxic interactions with her ex-boyfriend, Tom Sandoval, who had been unfaithful.

The goal of the grey rock technique is to disengage without ending contact, said Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist and the author of It’s Not You: Identifying And Healing From Narcissistic People. People who grey rock remain neutral, keep their interactions “trim and slim,” and avoid sharing information that could potentially be turned against them, she added.

But while some psychologists say that the method is helpful under certain circumstances, it isn’t always the right solution.

HOW DOES “GREY ROCKING” WORK?

There isn’t an official set of rules for grey rocking. The method has not been studied, nor is it derived from an evidence-based psychological practice.

But, in general, you can think of grey rocking as a form of emotional disengagement, Dr Durvasula said.

Antagonistic people are usually looking for a fight, she added, and grey rocking can be one way to keep the peace and avoid “getting into the mud with them.”

It is especially effective in written communication, like texting, as a way of avoiding long, meandering messages, she said. The strategy can also be useful at work, she added, where concise communication is often valued.

Many variations on grey rocking exist. One communication coach on TikTok demonstrated various ways to avoid being “overly icy or awkward,” a process she calls “soft grey rocking.” For example, she said, if someone asks you how a job search is going, instead of explaining how hard it has been you can talk about the different networking events you’ve attended.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, conversations can become heated. If the person with whom you’re interacting remains disrespectful, dishonest or manipulative, then you may be better off severing contact, Dr Durvasula said. But not everybody can do that immediately, especially if the relationship involves a close family member or a spouse.

Tina Swithin, the founder of One Mom’s Battle, a website and online community for people who are divorcing someone with narcissistic tendencies, recommends the “yellow rock” technique, particularly when coparenting.

Unlike the grey rock, which is “cool to the touch and a bit aloof,” the yellow rock “has an air of friendliness,” she wrote in her guide for parents navigating the family court system.

According to Swithin, a person using the yellow rock technique might say: “While I do not agree with you, you have every right to feel the way you do.” Or: “I’m hoping we can both take time away from this topic to regroup as we are not going in a positive or productive direction. Let’s revisit this next week.”





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