Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: Gray Rock Method


Gray rock method is the act of behaving as if you are disinterested in interacting with an individual or groups toxic behaviors. In turn, it is appearing as if you are the least interesting thing in the vicinity. Most people don’t notice the gray rock, even if it’s in their immediate path. They go around it, but they, generally, don’t bother with it, otherwise. It’s not the silent treatment, it’s more or less the “Meh” treatment.

The ideal situation, when you find you are dealing with bullies and toxic individuals is to go “No Contact” . It’s better to walk away from toxic people, because there is no changing them. Even if you ask nicely, it will only take a few days for them to return to their toxic behaviors, because, that is their nature.

The gray rock method is the next best thing, if you are in a situation where you are required to deal with toxic people on a regular basis. It’s not perfect and it takes some practice, but it is one way to keep yourself in check, when you are dealing with people who like to push your buttons.

You might consider practicing gray rock with that coworker who always has something rude to say to you. Your typical reaction may be to respond, defensively, and speak up for yourself. Using the gray rock method, you, more or less, keep doing your work, or leave the vicinity, without saying a word or showing any kind of response (even a “hmph” or a smirk will be considered a “positive” reaction, so if you cannot keep a straight face, it’s best to leave the vicinity or change the subject, if you can).

If you cannot leave the vicinity and/or you do have to speak to your toxic coworker, keep your interactions, strictly to business. Don’t ask about their day or their kids. “Can you please sign this form?” or “I took care of Case XYZ,” is all you need to say. If you respond to their queries, keep your answers short and simple, whenever possible.

The gray rock method is not fool-proof. There are some toxic people, out there, who will stop at nothing to push your buttons. That’s just the way of the world. But, sometimes, the one thing, a toxic person is looking for, is a volatile reaction (of any kind) from you. Using the gray rock method, is refusing to give them that reaction.

Yes, the gray rock method is passive. This is purposeful. Many bullies and toxic people attach to you because they see you as someone who is smart, strong-willed, and outgoing; meaning, you get shit done. You are a target, usually, because your existence makes them look bad. Gray rock is like the difference between Clark Kent and Superman. Clark Kent IS Superman, but as Clark Kent, the villains (usually) don’t mess with him. You can still be Superman, but when you are around bullies and toxic individuals, be Clark Kent.

The same goes for when you are approached by your boss or other coworkers who have been gaslighted by your bully coworker. Try to respond, ambiguously, when others bring issues, regarding your bully, to your attention. For instance, if Lois comes to you with news that Lex told her that you are NEVER around when he is looking for you. Whether or not that news true, respond as if she told you that Jimmy just broke another camera, “Thanks for letting me know, Lois. I’ll figure out what’s going on, later.” If you try to defend yourself, you set yourself up to do battle with Lex, because, ANY kind of exaggerated reaction, that the bully hears about, (and trust, Lois will run right to Lex to tell him all about how defensive you were), will be treated as if they caused the reaction, personally. In short, it will just be an invitation to more abuse, later.

The gray rock method, in the workplace, is your best bet for minimizing abusive behavior, towards you.

Some tips for practicing the gray rock method:

1) Keep your head down and your mouth closed. Once you discover that a coworker is a bully, defending yourself will make you a ready target for their continued abuse.

2) Practice the 4-7-8 breathing method. If a toxic individual is pushing your buttons, before lashing out or defending yourself, try taking a deep breath, through your nose, for 4 seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Then blow it out, slowly, for 8 seconds, through your mouth.

3) Don’t feed the toxic trolls! And don’t feed the gossip or rumors that you hear about yourself from other people, in regards to the toxic person. A secondary reaction, even if the bully is not present, is as good as if the bully had been there, themselves.

Other posts in the series:

On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.

Feel free to send email to with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.

Published by Diva

Trying to live my best life, but chores keep getting in the way!

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