While we try to surround ourselves with kind, caring, drama-free folks, we can’t avoid negative people entirely. And when we are forced to spend time with Debbie Downer-types, like at family holiday gatherings, knowing how to deal with them can make all the difference.
Have you heard of the “gray rock method?” It’s an easy way to handle tough personalities, from narcissistic coworkers to energy vampire cousins, and it was developed by psychologist Nadene van der Linden. Basically, it’s a way to keep toxic people from escalating the situation and stressing you out, which they love to do. And all you have to do is act as uninteresting and unengaged as possible, being a boring “gray rock” and they’ll move on to a more exciting target.
Van der Linden explains, “The best chance we’ve got of a healthy outcome with a toxic person is changing our response to them.” So don’t tell them about your new promotion or your mother-in-law’s visit, instead channel the most boring person you’ve ever met, speak in a neutral voice, and give short, generic answers. Be as blah as you can and bore the toxic person away.
Because draining, difficult people crave excitement and drama, if you don’t give them any, they have nothing to spin and lose interest. Subtlety is key, but if it means protecting your time and energy, you can do it.