Going “gray rock” is a method of dealing with attention-seeking, manipulative, or otherwise narcissistic and abusive behaviors. When a person gray rocks, the goal is to simply not respond—like a rock—to any attempts by an attacker at eliciting a negative emotional response from you.
For example, if someone rages at you, instead of responding with hostility or catering to their anger by giving into their demands or soothing them, you simply do not respond at all.
If someone creates a scenario that is meant to hurt you in a passive-aggressive manner, instead of calling the person out or getting your feelings hurt, you do not respond at all.
If a person is creating drama between other people and attempts to pull you into it, either by putting on the role of victim or hero (and you suspect that they are not as they seem), then you do not allow yourself to become pons in their game. You do not respond.
If a person is flattering you with praise that you know you do not deserve, or you know is insincere or otherwise meant to manipulate you, do not respond.
The ways you “gray rock” can vary. It can be complete silence. You can walk away. You can deflect by changing the subject of the conversation.
This none-response might seem cruel, but in some instances, it is the only thing you can do to avoid giving the harmful person fuel for their fire. It is the only way to protect yourself, and it is a kindness to them also because you do not pander to their weaker traits, thereby enabling them and helping them to sin further.
If you continue to use this method, the person who is attacking you or attempting to manipulate you will eventually lose interest, or that’s the hope.
Sometimes they ramp things up to an extreme because they cannot stand that they did not get the response from you that they wanted. In some of these cases, extreme violence, slander, and other cruelties can result. So, the only thing you can do is remove yourself completely—and in very extreme cases—involve law enforcement for your own protection.
Going “gray rock” is not easy when dealing with people who know how to push your buttons, and they do so on purpose because they enjoy seeing you upset or because in their mind it restores a sense of superiority, power, and control over you.
It helps if we think about the mind of the person who is attempting to harm us.
In many cases, we are dealing with people who are very emotionally immature—and this immaturity most likely stems from a history of trauma, abuse, and neglect. In some ways, they are stunted. The responses you see are like that of a toddler throwing a tantrum or a young child manipulating people for their own gain.
So, try to find some compassion for them, but do not give in. In some instances, if the adult tantrums are small or if they are self-aware, they will want to overcome this and you can help them by remaining calm then showing forgiveness after the fact when they acknowledge what they have done.
When to Use the Gray Rock Method
Anytime a person or group is behaving in a manner that tempts you to sin, you can use this gray rock method to help restrain yourself.
This can be used when dealing with an abusive individual, and this can also be done when dealing with larger matters socially and politically. In general, you can go “gray rock” when a situations arises that tempts you to respond in anger, when you feel tempted to lie or flatter someone, when you feel tempted to gossip, or when you feel tempted to judge something or someone without having the full information.
Although there is a time for standing up for what is right, there is also a time to be silent. If we seek Jesus in all things, His Spirit will let us know what to do.
Going Gray Rock from a Christian Perspective
Did Jesus go “gray rock” when dealing with the authorities in His day? I think about when the Pharisees brought Jesus the woman who was caught in adultery, and instead of responding, Jesus stooped down and started writing in the sand (John 8).
He knew that they were tempting Him, and they were attacking this woman in the process. As they continued to push the matter, Jesus responded with one of His famous lines, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” then He resumed drawing in the sand.
His nonchalant attitude deflected the drama—along with His wise words—which is an incredible thing and this does seem to be a kind of “gray rock” thing to do.
There were many times when the Scribes and Pharisees tried to get at Jesus. They wanted to trip Him up or cause Him to sin so that they could have a reason to accuse Him.
The same is often true when dealing with people who have narcissistic personality traits. They do things to provoke you, then if you respond in a negative way, they use your response to shift the focus off of their behavior and onto you—and before you know it, you are the one apologizing to them or pandering to their demands in some other way.
Going “gray rock” takes practice, but it helps if we do not take ourselves so seriously. When we know that someone is trying to hurt us or manipulate us, if we can separate ourselves from the situation and not take it personally, then we can just let the person be. They will be who they are, and we can be who we are. Jesus sees it all, and He will deal with it. Getting upset does no one any good. Seek Jesus and He will protect your peace of mind, because He dealt with the same things.
I’m not a mental health professional. I write these articles based on my life experience. This life can teach us a lot about trauma, but Jesus can teach us a lot about recovery and His ways are so much better than anything we find in this world. If you have endured narcissistic abuse, turn to Jesus because He knows exactly what you are dealing with—and He has the answers that will heal.