I re-shared my post about gaslighting on Facebook the other day and one of the commenters mentioned the Gray Rock Method and how it helped them with dealing with someone who was gaslighting her. So of course I had to do some research on what that was. I think it could be helpful so I want to talk about it!
The Gray Rock Method was found on psychologist Nadene van der Linden’s blog, Unshakeable Calm. “The best chance we’ve got of a healthy outcome with a toxic person is changing our response to them,” van der Linden says.
The Gray Rock Method is a way to communicate with an abusive/manipulative/gaslighting person that focuses on disengagement.
It’s best used in situations that do not involve a physically abusive person because ignoring or disengaging can often lead to more abuse and it won’t be the right method for every person or every situation. But for co-workers, family members you see every now and then, or that ex that you need to communicate with for whatever reason – the gray rock method might help.
When I broke up with my ex who gaslighted me and was verbally and mentally abusive, would always text me these outlandish accusations about me and my character and every single time I would feel the need to defend myself. I was falling right into the trap of being baited into breaking no contact. I would engage, there would be an argument, and the cycle would endlessly repeat itself.
No contact is always best.
As I talk about in my workbook Self-Care for Breakups, no contact is almost always the best option. When you’re dealing with abusive people the best strategy is to completely cut off contact with them, but unfortunately, sometimes that’s not a viable option. Maybe you’re co-parenting, you have to share a space, or you work together. The gray rock method encourages you to be so boring and un-reactionary that the person essentially loses interest. If they can’t get a rise out of you then eventually they’ll stop trying.
Be Brief When Answering Questions
If you have to engage in conversation then be as brief as possible. Don’t offer information that’s not needed and don’t add any personal opinions or details. Answer in one or two words, short sentences, or just nod or shrug. If you don’t have to talk to them – don’t.
Be Factual But Also Impersonal
“I don’t remember it that way. That didn’t happen.” This one was always hardest for me because whenever my ex would try to gaslight me, toward the end of the relationship I’d go into lawyer-mode. I’d provide screenshots, I would re-iterate what the truth was, I would go on and on trying to convince her that my reality was valid and she was the one who was twisting things. The number of times that changed anything: 0.
Avoid Emotional Responses
I know it’s hard. Especially when someone is being verbally or mentally abusive, it’s an emotional situation but they’re often doing it to get a reaction. Depriving them of that satisfaction can make them lose interest. It’s also important not to tell them what you’re doing as that can give them an incentive to try to get a reaction out of you.
Keep Busy During Interactions
Become absorbed in your work, get on your phone, play with a pet, walk away to go do something else. You do not owe them your full attention. Stay in the car when you drop your kids off at their house. Sit at the other end of the table for family meals. Avoid interacting with them as much as possible.
Don’t Give Them Personal Details
Anything you tell them about your life will always be used against you. While you may be tempted to share how well you’re doing, it usually only gives them more fuel. You do not owe them anything. Be as uninteresting and boring as you possibly can.
Don’t Gray Rock in Your Everyday Life
If you use the gray rock method a lot, for example with a parent, roommate, or co-parent, you can struggle with falling into using it all of the time. You can unintentionally start using it with the people around you as a form of self-protection and because you become used to shoving down your emotions. That’s why it’s so important to have a good support system (including a therapist!) that you can talk to and who allows you to talk about all of the feelings and emotions you’re not showing.