How to Stop Gaslighting in Relationships (Plus the Original Gray Rock Story) and Tips for Using the Gray Rock Method (Safely)
Communicating with a narcissist can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it matters that they comprehend what you’re saying. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt exasperated when trying to have simple conversations with narcissists who are actively gaslighting.
Gray rock is a simple but highly effective way of dealing with narcissists, and in a nutshell, it means that you respond to the narcissist as briefly, and factually as possible. You don’t give them any of your emotions when you use gray rock; instead, you keep it as boring as you can: monotone, detached and as vague as possible.
Then, if the narcissist treats you badly, you simply ignore it. You go on as though they hadn’t reacted at all.
If they act like they aren’t “getting” what you’re doing, keep up with it and ignore it. Same goes for what to do if they irritate or upset you – keep going and ignore their response.
“There’s one simple rule when it comes to communicating effectively with a narcissist – and it’s so basic that you’ll be shocked when I tell you what it is.
The rule is: do not engage the narcissist. What do I mean by this? It’s simple: keep emotion out of it. When the narcissist tries to manipulate and provoke you, which he or she inevitably will, you have to maintain an air of professional-type detachment. Try to see the narcissist as almost a stranger and communicate with him /her on that level.”
Using gray rock can protect you from emotional turmoil and allow you space to see the toxic abusive exchanges for what they are. This can help reduce your own feelings of cognitive dissonance and abuse amnesia because it limits their own part in any abusive outburst the narcissist is using against them and gives perspective on what’s really going on.
If only limited information is given and done so in a flat, boring tone, you have the opportunity to observe the narcissist’s behaviors and even see the manipulation tactics as they are happening (instead of reacting to them) and losing yourself in the exchange.
But remember: gray rock is a technique, not a lifestyle. It can serve a purpose in many areas of life for sensitive people and empaths because the sensitivities can tend to be used by others to draw us in and then manipulate us.
If you are with a narcissist, this tool can help to both calm the situation, give you space to feel what you actually feel instead of what you are being manipulated to feel and create a low supply situation the narcissist may bore of. To live this way long term is not the ideal, its a tool, for now, as you cope.
For some survivors, gray rock can be a struggle because the urge to react is so strong. There are ways to lighten that feeling and I hope to share some with you in this article.
One area gray rock can seem, well, grey to some people is the feelings of no closure to an argument or the feelings of being misrepresented by a narcissist and wanting to defend one’s own position.
It can leave some feeling like it does not work well, or they are not doing it right because all of the inner feelings they have are not being expressed.
Validation is a basic human need.
We all want to be heard, validated and seen, that is basic human nature and health but with a narcissist, during a manipulative abusive situation where they are projecting, gaslighting, outright telling lies – well, this will not happen.
Generally, with a narcissist, unless the topic swings back to them, they are not hearing anyone else in a deep and meaningful way anyway and certainly not when they are in a rant needing to prove their own ego is what is superior or right.
So what can we do with these feelings of not being heard or validated?
How can we feel strong and maintain our voice by such a technique that at its core is truly empowering, but in practice can feel like giving in or even like you are biting your tongue?
What else can be added to this brilliant technique to help those of us that are feeling slighted and misrepresented or devalued by an abusive exchange with a narcissist?
Here are a few tips that can help you.
Hold your truth.
One idea to try that works well is holding your own truth within yourself. Keeping hold of yourself while the narcissist continues to gaslight or project. This can be done with silently repeating to yourself exactly what you are seeing, name SILENTLY the behavior you see, then add a phrase that grounds you to your truth.
For example, during a situation where a narcissist is projecting their own issues onto you then using gaslighting to convince you it is true, and you stop to gray rock that, before the feelings of wanting to react even start you can look at what is happening. In your silent mind, “ I am gray rocking this because he/she is gaslighting me. I see they are projecting because they are the one that does that thing.”
Then, and remember all of this is silent, to self, only your inner dialogue, never spoken directly to the narcissist, “I know my truth, I know the facts that I have lived and this is their fantasy.”
Another simple one could be “I validate my own truth in this, the manipulation is just noise.”
Keep a private journal.
Another tool to add to the gray rock toolkit is after the abusive happens and you have used gray rock technique, write down what happened. Keeping even a simple private log but even better a journal on the manipulations can really help reduce the abuse amnesia many of us have happened.
One thing that can happen with prolonged grey rocking is getting so good at it that it becomes part of the dynamic of the relationship with the narcissist, especially if it diffuses the abuse somewhat, THE ABUSE IS STiLL THERE and is happening even if it’s being diffused.
A journal can help map the abuses and allow us to see, in list form all that goes on when we are busy managing things to keep us safe from emotional abuse. It can keep it from seeming just part of how life is if the abuse is pulled out from the situation and shown on paper to oneself.
With the ultimate goal being a life free from abuse, seeing pages and pages of the same cycles of abuse over and over can help free oneself from the hold those manipulations have over you. If you do this, keep it private, locked away and safe from being found by others.
The last tip I have is to tell a narcissistic abuse trained therapist, life coach or support group what you experienced. Look for the patterns the narcissist has that you see in your journal and share those with a person or group that is either trained or has experienced similar. This will give you more of that validation we need so much after emotional abuse. It can help you to see it even deeper as well to write or speak with SELECT others who truly understand.
Questions for You: Have you felt the need for validation and support after an abusive situation where you used gray rock? Do you ever struggle with not reacting and following through with the gray rock technique? Are there things you can tell yourself that might help throughout using the technique which give you support and reclaim your own power?
Thanks for reading this post! My name is Lise Colucci and I am one of the certified life coaches at QueenBeeing. Learn more about me here or schedule a one-on-one coaching session with me here.
If you are personally or professionally involved with a narcissist in a toxic relationship and due to the circumstances, you aren’t able to take the most effective action for dealing with it (going no contact), you might find yourself struggling to have a reasonable conversation with him or her. This is because, by nature, the narcissist is wired to instigate drama, manipulate, and they generally do their best to make it all about them. This can be both exhausting and frustrating for anyone trying to deal with a narcissist in a toxic relationship.
So, how do you go about communicating with a narcissist effectively? You start by learning how their mind works. And then you follow this one rule.
The One Rule You Need to Use to Effectively Communicate With a Narcissist
What do I mean by this? It’s simple: keep emotion out of it. When the narcissist tries to manipulate and provoke you, which he or she inevitably will, you have to maintain an air of professional-type detachment. Try to see the narcissist as almost a stranger and communicate with him on that level.
The Gray Rock Rule
Some people refer to this rule as the “gray rock” rule of communication. Basically, you deal with the narcissist if you have to, but you only give boring, monotonous responses. This way, the narcissist can’t get the narcissistic supply they seek from you during gaslighting and manipulation – and they must seek it elsewhere.
The gray rock rule is a technique that was named and first published by a writer called Skylar, who advises that you act boring and don’t react to the narcissist’s attempts to engage you in drama. The tactic is not only highly effective for use in disarming the narcissist and shutting down their gaslighting, but it is also incredibly infuriating for narcissists to experience.
Please note: While some people might want to get revenge on the narcissist, I recommend that you’re very careful here – and definitely avoid use (or at least use with caution) if you are dealing with any physical abuse as the narcissist may not react well. If you are dealing with physical abuse of any type, you should not use any tactic except those which keep you safe, and you should do everything in your power to find a way out. Start with this domestic violence resources page.
By sticking to the gray rock rule, you can bet that your narcissist will lose interest quickly. That’s because it’ll retrain his brain to consider you “boring” and essentially, you’ll no longer be an effective source of narcissistic supply. This will cause the narcissist to move on and find someone else to torture if all goes as expected – and with a narcissist, it generally does – they’re not especially unpredictable, believe it or not.