“Just cut them out of your life.”
You’ve probably heard this advice when talking about dealing with harmful, abusive people,
What happens when you can’t just have them be dead to you? If it’s a parent, boss, teammate, or sibling, sometimes you can’t just cut them out and never see them again.
The thought of dealing with them makes your stomach turn backflips because you know that setting boundaries will cause more drama.
They’ll take your boundary and retaliate with a full-blown attack.
Enter the grey rock.
When you have little recourse with a harmful person and you still have to engage with them, your best bet is to learn to be like a grey rock.
Picture a simple grey rock in your mind. It’s pretty forgettable, right? Inoffensive. It just sits there.
That’s how you can be with that harmful person. Bring your energy in to your core and pretend like you are the most boring person in the room. Pretend like you are inert.
This tactic disarms the narcissistic, toxic, manipulative person because you aren’t giving them anything. Nothing to resist, nothing to fight, nothing to use against you.
What does that sound like? Small talk responses. Basic reflection of what they say without any emotional investment from you. “mmm-hmm.. uh-huh.. yeah, I see that.”
Cutting off contact is the best defense against chronically harmful people, but when you can’t do that, I hope you can employ this grey rock technique to get the manipulator to lose interest.
Perhaps you were thinking, “Gosh that sounds so much easier than it actually is. You don’t know my (mom, co-parent, boss).”
In a world where we thrive on words like authenticity, transparency and vulnerability, the truth is you don’t owe that to everyone. You only owe it to those you trust.
If you feel safe enough to try it, you can make like a grey rock and just test these out.
“I hear you.”
But inside, you can be like, “eh.”
In some cases, however, this can have the opposite effect. Grey rock is a technique that needs finesse and successful use depends on the situation. A harmful person could become more angered and aggressive if they feel ignored.
I don’t recommend trying this on a physically abusive person — in that scenario, please find a way to get help.
I’d also recommend the help of a therapist, healer, or trauma-informed coach to manage the emotional toll of dealing with toxic people and to set a plan of action in place.
Identifying and dealing with difficult people is part of what we’d work on in Soul School, my 6-month group intensive program. We also help you build up your own confidence, trust your gut, and tackle the anxiety you get from dealing with these asshats. Click here to see if Soul School is for you.
Chances are, you aren’t the only one dealing with a manipulator. You don’t have to figure out how to deal with it all on your own.