Is it The Silent Treatment or Emotional Survival? Part 4, Medium Chill and Gray Rock

Click here for all posts in this series.

Readers have shared two more perspectives on the kind of Silent Treatment that is not relationship abuse but is emotional and in some cases physical survival.


These perspectives refer to survival mechanisms known variously as “Medium Chill” and “Gray Rock” (MC, GR). Both refer to interactions where a person ”backs away,” leaves, and/or does not ” feed into” the aggression of another or others in an attempt to diffuse hostility and/or decrease some perceived—or real—threat.

It is used, according to experts, when someone is attempting to incite some kind of emotional, mental or even physical riot, as it were; trying to draw his/her target into a typically no-win engagement usually fueled by anger or some attempt to control.

Or perhaps MC/GR is used to diffuse an interaction, perhaps a pattern, of a more emotionally lethal nature, e.g., mockery, put-downs, controlling behaviors, and/or blaming and shaming, often laced with sarcasm and delivered with contempt.

MC/GR is a strategy similar to those used by counselors, therapists, teachers, police officers and others, who might, because of their profession, have to calm some volatile or potentially volatile situation.

Note: This behavioral dynamic does not refer to the normal ebb and flow of a relationship wherein individuals or groups are working differences out where there is compromise, education, re-training, and so on, to achieve healthier ways of interacting. It refers to efforts of those attempting to offset or stop behavior of a more malignant nature exhibited by individuals whose goal is not to improve a situation but to in some way control it and/or even destroy it.


MC/GR is employed to try to “cool” the chaos, to ratchet it back from “red hot” to “dull gray” as much as possible until something else can be done or the target can safely leave.

The hoped-for results are akin to the Scriptural equivalency paraphrased, “where there is no fuel, the fire goes out” (Proverbs 26:20).

It is effective because certain kinds of aggressors, experts note, tend to dislike cool neutrality. They may give up or look elsewhere for drama, engagement.

One reader referenced where Medium Chill is further defined. As website administrators explain, this technique is “(Used) to disengage oneself from another person’s drama when direct contact is unavoidable,” […], (It) is assertive without being confrontational.” Gray Rock is a synonym.


Drawn and adapted from the website, key elements of this response include:

  1. Avoid sharing personal information (or too much personal information), and
  2. Avoid getting involved in another person’s chaos and drama.

The less information an aggressor has about his/her target, the thinking goes, the less “fuel” he/she has to stoke the fire.

The following are a few examples of responses to three intensifying levels of drama and/or danger drawn and/or adapted from the website:

When asked an intrusive or inciting question MC/GR responses might include:

-Pausing before changing the topic to something neutral.

-Answering with, “I do not know; I will have to get back to you on that,”

-“Hmmmmm, let me think about it,” or

-“I can’t think of any other way to explain my position to you other than how I have already done so.”

When the attempt is to get you involved in the drama, responses might include:

-“It’s really none of my business.”

-I don’t know what to say.”

-“That’s interesting.”

-“Perhaps that is a question/issue for a counselor/lawyer/doctor.”

Responding in as flat, emotionless a manner as possible is helpful.

If the drama escalates to danger or potential danger, responses might include:

-Leave the situation, explaining, simply, “I have to go, now,” if you so choose. Or just leave, depending on the level of hostility.

-In the event of a perceived/pending threat, leave the room and house immediately if you can safely do so, and call 911.

In all cases, it is advisable to seek the counsel of those who understand the nature of such behavior, who are aware of—and experienced in—dealing with relationships within which there is emotional, verbal, and/or physical abuse.

For this may well be the core issue.


As an encourager in the Body of Christ, I would add Jesus’ own words of comfort and hope for deliverance to any who have experienced or who are experiencing the damaging effects of this kind of relationship:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed (thrauo: crushed, broken down, shattered) free (Luke 4:18 NIV). (Bolding mine.)

And in the interim, “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself”  (Proverbs 27:12 NASB).

Chaos, drama, and destruction are not His will for you.

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