How the gray rock method can help you stay strong amid conflict

A hand holds a gray rock  (Getty Images)
A hand holds a gray rock (Getty Images)

The gray rock method has taken off as an alternative way to manage conflict with others.

Over the last decade, the gray rock method has gradually garnered popularity as a conflict mediation tactic, typically applied during an argument that may be unproductive or prone to escalation. Most recently, gray rocking resurfaced during an episode of Bravo’sVanderpump Rules in which Ariana Madix used the tactic to avoid her cheating ex-boyfriend, Tom Sandoval.

According to clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula's book, It’s Not You: Identifying and Healing From Narcissistic People, to properly gray rock, you must remain neutral and keep all interactions with your antagonizer minimal. She added that people should also refrain from sharing any information that could be used against them.

Gray rocking is a way to emotionally disengage from a conflict when the other is seemingly looking for a fight or an argument. Although the method has neither been studied nor is it based on psychological practice, Durvasula writes that it is an effective way to concisely communicate a problem, noting that the method can work just as well at work as it does within personal matters.

The method has had multiple forms online, with one communication coach on TikTok advocating for “soft” gray rocking when navigating uncomfortable or awkward encounters. Whether it is someone asking about you’re coping post-breakup or how your job search is going, soft gray rocking can allow you to redirect the conversation to something positive.

However, the method doesn’t always account for how rude or aggressive other people may be. If the other person continues to be combative and ignore your boundaries, Dr Durvasula recommends limiting contact with them.

Durvasula wasn’t the first to coin the term, she admitted to the New York Times she stumbled upon the term on Donna Andersen’s website, Love Fraud. In 2005, Andersen created the website as a guide to help others recognize con artists, narcissists, and psychopaths hidden in plain sight. She’d been driven to make the platform after her former husband stole a quarter-million dollars from her and had countless extra-marital affairs.

The online community gave people the opportunity to share how they’ve each dealt with these toxic people, with one person penning an article in 2012 titled “The Gray Rock method of dealing with psychopaths.”

“Psychopaths are addicted to drama, and they can’t stand to be bored,” the writer said, noting that breaking contact may be the most effective solution but not all can. They recommended people try responding to the other person in a disaffected manner to avoid conflict and channel the energy of a still, immovable gray rock.