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Turn Down the Heat on Difficult People by Staying Medium Chill

·504 words·3 mins
Psyched for the Weekend

A while back, I wrote an article on one of my favorite tools in the quest of maintaining my sanity: The gray rock method.

The gray rock method can be an emotional lifesaver in situations where you’re forced to interact with a manipulative person. Especially one who is good at laying conversational traps and kicking up drama out of nowhere.

Ideally, you’d avoid a person like that altogether, never occupy the same space. But there are situations that crop up where you might not be able to do this (say, they  show up at an event you’re working at, etc.).

And that’s where the gray rock method comes into play. Essentially, when you gray rock someone you say as little as you can in response to whatever they say and you are as bland as you can be. You’re pleasant enough, but you are the world’s most awful and uninspired conversationalist.  You become as boring as a gray rock. Like a turtle blending in with the bottom of a river bed.

Turning Down the Temperature to a Medium Chill

While gray rock is a handy technique (and feel free to see that past article for more information), when it comes to dealing with manipulative people, it’s not the only show in town.

Another helpful method is medium chill. Medium chill is basically a cousin of gray rock. It works upon the same principles, but frames them a little differently and for some people is a lot easier to execute.

A medium chill approach focuses on cultivating a calm, centered, distanced, detached inner state. Essentially, you never let your emotional temperature on the inside or the outside become heated. Now, you’re not being icy. The point of medium chill isn’t to completely freeze the other person out or put them completely on ice.  It’s MEDIUM chill for a reason. You don’t want to be hostile, just a little distant. And emotionally uninvested.

When implementing medium chill:

  • Focus on giving neutral responses.
  • Make sure not to share any personal information.
  • Do everything you can not to get involved in any of that person’s personal problems.
  • Use a pleasant tone of voice.
  • Pay an average amount of attention (not too little, not too much).

A lot of people have found when taking a medium chill stance that it’s helpful to pretend that you’re at a job interview. Be polite but professional.


Note: These techniques are only intended for situations where you have to tolerate a difficult person’s presence and wish to escape with as little fallout as possible. They are not to be employed in healthy close relationships. Even when it comes to using them with a difficult person, it’s better to limit contact with that person or even avoid them completely if possible.


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.


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