Let’s Learn the “Duck Duck Grey Rock” Game!

by | Advocacy, Articles, Boundaries, Emotional Abuse, Learning, Waking Up | 24 comments

When you were a kid did you ever play the game where everyone has to hold still, and whoever moves first loses the game, while the one who holds out the longest without moving a muscle is the winner? Another variation on that was seeing who could keep quietest the longest. (Maybe your mom tried to get you to play that game on a road trip.)

If you were pretty good at that game as a kid, you’re going to rock this adult version especially designed for adults who have to deal with children in adult bodies on a regular basis. (That’s right. I’m lookin’ at you.)

It’s called “Duck Duck Grey Rock.” Basically, you duck an attack. Then you duck another attack. Then you GREY ROCK.

Learn To Grey Rock!

It’s super fun. Let me teach you how to play.

First, the rules:

  1. Your opponent is called The Giant. Keep in mind that giants are relative. Humans are giants to mice, and mice are giants to ants. And giraffes are giants to humans. Get my point here? Stay with me. The Giant is actually a little child. We call him the giant because YOU ARE THE ROCK in this game. A grey rock, to be more specific. And small children are giants to little grey rocks. 
  2. You are a little grey rock. Not really though. In real life, you are this amazing, sparkly, colorful, valuable gem. But hey there, Pretty Gem, you need to learn how to turn off all the color for this game, okay? Because in this game, you are going to be a little grey rock. BOOOOOOOOOORING. Super dull. A little piece of unnoticeable nothingness on the ground. Why? I’m getting to that.
  3. The goal in this game for The Giant is to find the little grey rock and TURN ON ALL THAT COLOR so it’s sparkly and fun to play with.
  4. The goal in this game for the little grey rock is to STAY HIDDEN as a little grey rock. You see, if you don’t get all sparkly, you’re no fun anymore, and The Giant will wander away looking for a bit of sparkle somewhere else.

Does this all make sense so far?

So you only win the game if you can fool The Giant into not finding THE REAL YOU.

I’m going to give you an example of how to win and lose this game, and then you can go play with your Giant. You will likely lose a few times and get discouraged. But the more you play, the better you’ll get at it. And the better you get at it, the more fun it is. The only down side is that you may find yourself experiencing less and less drama in your life as The Giant stops coming around quite so much. So prepare yourself for some peace and quiet in your life.

Okay, here we go. This is an example of losing the Grey Rock game:

Matilda gets a phone call from The Giant.

He says, “Did you put a lock on your office door at the house?”

Matilda says, “Yes, I had to do that because you’ve been scaring me lately. I don’t feel safe around you.”

The Giant: “That’s ridiculous. I haven’t done anything scary. What in the world are you talking about?”

Matilda: “Why do you always have to get so mad? I can’t say or do anything, and you get angry.

The Giant: “Who said I’m mad? I’m not mad. I’m just trying to understand why you would put a lock on your door. I’m not the enemy here.

Matilda: “You ARE mad! And yes, you are my enemy when you rage and criticize and make me feel like I’m not even safe in my own home. I’m so sick of your denial.

The Giant: “MY DENIAL? What about YOURS?

And the conversation is off to the races!

So, who won that game?

That’s right. The Giant won. Why? Because Matilda was sparkly and shiny. She was showing up in full color, and The Giant LOVES that! He had a grand old time playing with Matilda.

Let’s do this scene over again with Penelope. Penelope is an expert “Grey Rocker.” Watch and learn, baby.

Penelope gets a phone call from The Giant.

He says, “Did you put a lock on your office door at the house?”

Penelope says, “Yes.

The Giant: “Why?

Penelope: “Because I wanted to.

The Giant: “Why did you want to?”

Penelope: “Because I like locks.

The Giant: “Well I don’t want you to have a lock on your door.”

Penelope: “Okay.

The Giant: “So are you going to take it off?

Penelope: “No.

The Giant: “I just told you I don’t want you to have a lock on your office door. Why aren’t you going to take it off?”

Penelope: “Because I want a lock on my office door.

The Giant: “You are a paranoid, angry, controlling little b&%$#.

Penelope: “Okay. Is that all then?

The Giant: “I don’t know how you can live with yourself. You need serious mental help.

Penelope: “Okay. See you when you get home.

Later that day, The Giant comes home. Penelope is in her office behind the locked door peacefully eating her dinner and watching her favorite Netflix series.

Penelope won! Notice her favorite phrase? “Okay.” Also, you can’t hear her because this isn’t audio, but when she talks, her voice is “grey.” Not monotone. Just grey. Boring. She makes sure not to let any emotion seep into her tone of voice. If she had been with him in person, she would have kept her facial expressions boring as well. Her body language dull. No animation. No sparks coming out of her eyes. No edge in her voice. No indication that she was annoyed or moved in any way by his ridiculous rants.

She was a grey rock.

Now, if you’ve been a pretty sparkly little gem for a very long time, your Giant might not believe that you’re now a grey rock. They might try to push you. And throw you. And kick you. (I mean this figuratively – if you are getting literally kicked around, please contact this number: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)).

They will persist in trying to get you to sparkle for quite a while. In fact, they might never stop trying. No matter. You are ROCKING this game for YOU.

And by the way, you can do this with their supporters as well. Giant supporters are the other Giants who are friends with your Giant. It’s like a toddler party in the sandbox. They’re all looking for the purty little rocks. If your Giant says to the others, “Come over here! I’ve got me a real hum-dinger of a Jezebel on my hands!” They’ll all come a-runnin’ to have a look-see.

Go grey. Go completely grey. Here’s how it might look:

Giant Supporter: “I hear you are not submitting to your Giant. Have you examined your sinful heart lately?”

Grey Rocker: “Yes Sir. I repent in dust and ashes.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! That’s not grey rock. That’s sweet sarcasm, and it feels SO GOOD to say it. They deserve some syrupy sarcasm because they are behaving moronically. But that’s not grey rock. That’s actually pretty sparkly. Mmmmm…that’s actually fireworks. In a passive aggressive way. (I love those kinds of fireworks, but this is about grey rocking it. So save the fireworks for when you’re out with your girlfriends later on swapping game stories and strategies.)

So let’s try that again…

Giant Supporter: “I hear you are not submitting to your Giant. Have you examined your sinful heart lately?

Grey Rocker: “Okay.

Giant Supporter: “What do you mean, ‘okay’?

Grey Rocker: “Okay, I’ll work on that.”

Giant Supporter: “You better. Otherwise you’ll be in direct disobedience to God, and you may need to be church disciplined.

Grey Rocker: “Okay.

What can they say? Not a whole lot. You’re too boring. You’re not arguing. You’re not having a cow. You’re not defending yourself.




And nobody can do anything with that. 

I’m serious, ladies. There is power in a little grey rock.

Go be one.

Fly Free,

Natalie Hoffman

P.S. If you don’t live with a Giant, and you don’t know any Giants, then you won’t be able to play this game. You need a Giant to play. Otherwise, you can just be your sparkly self, flying free. HUGS!


  1. Donna

    Thank you for injecting tear inducing laughter into such an ugly painful situation. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. So on point. Your website is life saving! I just found it a couple of weeks ago through a link on Patrick Doyle’s website after he was on your podcast. His wisdom started my journey to rethink everything I’ve been taught in the church. Thank you for giving a name to what exactly was going on in my marriage. What a relief to know that so many other Christian women are suffering the same thing that I’ve been for so many years. Thank you for giving me hope. I’m making a plan to fly free!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m glad you found this! I’m cheering you on!

  2. Tari ONeill

    I need to practice grey rocking more. I love the “okay” answer as I see where it stops the banter. However, I fight against it because for me, it feels like submitting to him…. but I realize it’s just a neutral and boring word that diffuses the ongoing conversation. Thank you.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      That’s right. You (and they) know you’re aren’t saying “okay I’ll do that” or “okay, I agree with you.” You’re just acknowledging that they said something. Period. It’s hard for them to come back from that.

  3. Amy

    I love this! I’ve learned that good way to play this game is to have no verbal contact with my abuser (aka my daughter’s dad). He is only allowed to communicate with me via text or e-mail (everything in writing!). On the occasion that he would try to call me, I only had one thing to say, “Send me an e-mail.” In a totally calm voice, I said it over and over, “send me an e-mail.” A couple times of that, and he quite trying to call me!

    I love boundaries!

  4. Pamela

    Love this, so validating! <3

  5. april

    Grey Rock is a life changer for me. I am in a (long, drawn-out, abusive) process of divorce. Grey Rock is my go-to strategy at all times. There recently was a meeting between my ex and our lawyers to come to an agreement (it didn’t work, not because of me). I didn’t say a word other than “OK” and basic pleasantries. He on the other hand was ranting, interrupting, and literally had spit flying from his mouth. Afterward, my lawyer said to me, “You don’t engage with him. It is absolutely the best strategy. And bonus: it clearly drives him crazy!”

  6. Jane

    This is brilliant. I think it’s a way of guarding your heart. Save the sparkle for those who care. You can’t make anyone care. They do or they don’t.
    Thank-you, Natalie, because you do care ♡

  7. Lori

    Is there any way i can grey rock into his life keeping him NC and fix something in the old cycle for my own self preservation? If I don’t do something to fix it I am mandated reporter and refusing to take a fall for him. If I don’t fix it then I have to report it and he’ll know it was me and I’ll be afraid for my life so if I go to that old cycle, I am at least aware, but then I won’t get beat up so badly over it later. If I try and get the pastor of ‘his’ church to handle it and right it then I can be out?

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m not sure I understand the situation here…

  8. April

    Hi Natalie! Someone shared this article with me and it has been wonderful. I’m excited to fully peruse your site! After a 23-year marriage, I’ve been divorced for 12 years now. His incessant texts/calls/trying to see me or get to me went on until I finally learned the grey rock method, which was years after our divorce. My experience has been that it’s not the divorce or break up that gets them to stop, but the GREY ROCKING!!!! We now have a grandchild together so I still have to see him occasionally for her birthday, events, etc. Human patterns are so difficult to manipulate, but grey rocking is the absolute best. Thank you for validating this for me ❤️

  9. Elyse

    I actually found this amusing to some degree and wish I was better at it. I lose quite frequently, but today is a new day! Thanks Natalie. You’re an inspiration in many ways.

  10. Cindy McKnight

    I was exploding bombs! Nothing pretty or sparkly, and the only one who got hurt was me. After I left him, I heard a sermon by a woman on “not engaging” and it was an eye opener! It took a long time to sink in, but I learned, and it helps in lots of situations. I love your “gray rock” analogy. God bless you!

  11. Maira

    My gosh Natalie you are 100% right. I’ve been getting better at this. I have at times totally lost the game, but those times are getting lesser and lesser. Recently, my husband told me he had found a job. (He was unemployed for 7 months and we are going through a divorce which he has recently sent 4 motions against me because I wanted the 3 children to spent the school-week with me and he would have every other weekend (extended) with them). That to a narcissist is another injury and well he’s fighting me tooth and nail costing thousands of dollars. Ok back to the phone call yesterday. We don’t communicate in person even though we are still in the same house….. Hi….(“Hi”)……I wanted to let you know I have a job….(“ok”)….I will get an apartment close to work for several months…(“ok”) ((holding my happy enthusiasm to myself))…..then I will be going there 2 weeks out of the month….(“ok. Well, congratulations”)….thank you…(“ok”)…..bye…..and quickly hung up. Phew….I think I won that one.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      YES YOU DID! Rocking the grey rock. High five! 🙂

  12. Sherry

    Perfect timing!
    I accidentally grey-rocked yesterday. OK, 9 months of Flying Free training, so maybe not accidentally.
    But I definitely needed to hear this right now. The other giants will be gathering for an attack. I’ll probably read this repeatedly as I go through the day.
    The truly sweet thing is that God has given me perfect peace, even my stress meter says so!
    God let me see a big piece of the puzzle that I have had trouble identifying. That piece had CONTROL written on it in capital letters. Couldn’t see it until I grey-rocked yesterday.

  13. Julie

    In case anyone else is where I am: I have grey rocked for 8 months. . The weird thing is, he doesn’t seem to care. We literally live in the same (large) house without seeing each other. (Empty nesters.) We only rarely have a need for an email exchange re any household details. He’s not sending any flying monkeys. No one from his church that I left has contacted me, except for one friend after a very long while. (And she and I have great fellowship without ever mentioning “the situation.”)

    He’s entitled, but only to a certain degree. Anger flared infrequently only when I started being strong. Nothing in a long time except one recent email attempt at lovebombing (which I ignored.)

    Go figure.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Some emotional abusers abuse by being indifferent to you as a human being. It’s a gross way to live. But the idea behind this is actually to make the best of a bad situation by GETTING them to ignore you. They don’t care. Whether they are pushing your buttons or ignoring you. Either way is disgusting behavior. But this strategy is for those who
      live with Giant Button Pushers. You probably don’t need to use this much with your abuser. He abuses in a different way. I’m so sorry you are married to someone like that.

  14. Debby

    I used to suck at this game!! I NEEDED him to undersyand, to change, to be a safe person and my emotions wrre so raw, my “wants” so real. But once I stopped caring about getting him to inderstand, then I had to learn to survive the attacks (all of this before I understood I could actually leave him). Grey Rock was a game changer! Especially with his questioning tactic. It felt “wrong” to not answer a question so thays why he used it. He KNEW that. But with grey rock, I wasn’t defendibg, I was just “answering” and all he could do was keep asking (like in checkers when it’s down to 2 moves and you both just go back and forth), except I would say “I already answered that. My answer is the same. Move on.” It was so empowering and seriously became almost an entertainment for me to see him squirm.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      YES! It does get kind of entertaining in a “scratch the nasty itch” kind of way. Thank you for sharing your success story! It took me a while to get the hang of this as well – I was so accustomed to explaining and defending and freaking out at his insanity. Going grey really is a game changer. But you’re right. You have to stop caring about getting them to understand. You need to get to the place where you really accept that they will NEVER understand.

      • Karen Moore

        I just started to do this grey rock strategy before I even read this. He was just trying to make me explode with all his false accusations and lies! I decided I didn’t need to explain to him ever again! I am newly retired and now have no job to be tied to! He’s going to find out sooner rather than later that I’m soooo done with his 46 years of abuse!

    • Jessica Throckmorton

      Sometimes, with my teenagers (17 & 18) I do the broken record method too! This statement, “But once I stopped caring about getting him to understand, then I had to learn to survive the attacks (all of this before I understood I could actually leave him). Grey Rock was a game changer! ” as it really resonated with me as I was much the same. I’m still married. For a long time (18yrs) I’ve felt like a bird that was trapped in a cage but with the help of Natalie, a few other related authors & God, my eyes opened & the cage door is opening. I’m working up the strength to fly free!


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