If you’ve ever dealt with a narcissist who was hell-bent on destroying your life, you know just how devastating the experience can be. While there are a lot of things you can do to weed these toxic people out before they ever get close to you, but it’s not a foolproof system. If you truly want to extract yourself from a narcissist’s grip, psychologists suggest grey rocking could be the way forward.
What is grey rocking?
The premise is simple. Imagine a gigantic boulder in the middle of a stormy beach. The waves are chaotically crashing around it, the wind is battering it… and yet there the rock stands, still as anything. Grey rocking is about remaining completely boring, uninterested, and unresponsive as that boulder.
According to experts, grey rocking is an effective tool to use against the toxic people in your life. It relies on you literally refusing to engage when a narcissist tries to get a reaction from you. You don’t respond, you don’t react. You do nothing. That’s the effortless joy of grey rocking.
How does it work?
- By refusing to engage, you starve toxic people out of your life. “You’re this immovable, impenetrable force who is disinterested,” explains marriage and family therapist Holly Richmond. “If they ask you a question, say yes or no, and don’t give details about your life or admit you’re practicing this grey rock method.” When they get nothing from you for long enough, they’ll fade away.
- Is grey rocking really that effective? Definitely. Narcissists rely on getting a reaction out of other people. They want constant reinforcement, attention, affection, praise, etc. They also sometimes like to purposely upset others to boost themselves. When you try grey rocking, you give them none of the responses they’re so desperate for. As a result, they’ll move on to someone else who will feed the beast, so to speak.
- Be prepared for a bad reaction. It’s important to point out that not all narcissists will just take the hint and move on without a fight. Grey rocking could very well annoy or enrage them, especially if the toxic person is used to getting a reaction from you. When they notice you disengaging, they might try even harder to get you to respond to them, so you need to be prepared for this.
- What about when grey rocking isn’t an option? There may be times when there’s a toxic person in your life and you can’t completely cut them off, like if you have kids together or work in the same office. In this case, you can use a similar but slightly less harsh approach known as yellow rocking. This is where you don’t overly engage but rather more casual, noncommittal responses to the things they say that have no meaning and require no personal involvement.
Tips for using grey rocking in your own life
When dealing with a narcissist, here are some ways to respond (or rather, not respond) to their toxic behavior and push them out of your life for good.
- Ignore their demanding texts. When a narcissist texts you demanding that you do something, answer a question, or offer a response to something they’re saying, simply don’t respond. As far as they’re concerned, you’re busy and have better things to do than be at their beck and call. Of course, you’ll have to be extra strong to stick this one out. “The more I would ignore him, the more it seemed to enrage him and he would double down on texting me,” recalls 28-year-old Molly S. “I think I woke up one morning to something like 87 messages from him, many of them too obscene to even mention. I just deleted them all without even reading them.” Grey rocking isn’t easy, but it is effective in the end.
- Don’t show interest in their antics. Again, because much of a narcissist’s livelihood relies on getting reactions out of other people and having people feed their ego, grey rocking is the perfect antidote. Katarina L., 34, found it refreshing to relinquish herself from having to feign interest in her ex’s drama. “He would spin these insane stories to try and get me hyped up and to tell him that he was always in the right and eventually, I just… stopped. He was really confused at first and kept asking what was wrong with me. He didn’t even realize that he was the one that had something wrong.”
- Start investing your time elsewhere. You know how when you go to the beach and there are signs everywhere warning you not to feed the seagulls? That’s because if you do, they’ll all swarm and the problem will just get worse. Grey rocking solves the issue because it takes away the very thing toxic people want most: attention. When you start spending time with your friends, working on your career, and practicing your hobbies rather than basing your life around them, they’ll start to realize that things aren’t going to be like they used to be.
- Make an exit plan and execute it. While grey rocking will likely ensure the narcissist loses interest and moves on to their next victim, it’s important that you have another plan in place to remove them from your life if they don’t go of their own free will. If you’re in a serious relationship with them and you live together, try to put some money away so that you can leave and are able to support yourself. If you feel that they may not react well to grey rocking or to your leaving, talk to your family members, friends, or even police to ensure your safety. While grey rocking is a very passive way to rid yourself of a narcissist and will work in many cases, staying safe is paramount.