Sometimes, getting your extended family together is like assembling a mix of the seven dwarves. You have the sleepy uncle, the grumpy grandpa, and the bashful cousin. Most of the time, though, these aren’t the big concern at a family gathering.

The one you probably dread the most is the evil witch, or the gossipy relative. A certain aunt might come to mind. The one that asks you tons of questions about your personal life that you’re not comfortable discussing. Relatives like this ask the same questions every get-together, despite your clear hesitance, and seem to enjoy making you squirm.

Toxic family relationships can be difficult to recognize and even more difficult to avoid. If you know you’ll have to face off with a toxic family member soon, here’s one strategy you can employ to minimize the effects of these harmful interactions.


One of the ways you can offset toxic interactions is through grey-rocking. Grey-rocking is a strategy that helps remove you from the center of a toxic person’s attention – by blending into the background of the chaotic holiday crowd. Simply put, you do your best to become uninteresting, to act like a bland, grey rock. To accomplish this, you can:

  • Limit showing emotional responses to their prodding questions
  • Talk about mundane or boring things like the weather
  • Refrain from bringing up news or accomplishments, unprompted

It may be tempting to shove your new job, great house, or other achievement in their face. But unfortunately, triumphant news tends to invite attack from toxic individuals. Accordingly, if your relatives become accusatory or bring up past drama, accept your fair share of the blame. A small hit to your own ego, now, will eliminate their ability to create more drama, later.

Unfortunately, triumphant news tends to invite attack from toxic individuals.

Grey-rocking sometimes involves swallowing your pride; it takes a lot of practice and patience. Ideally, you would be able to cut toxic relationships out of your life permanently. But this isn’t always possible with family members. By strategically withholding interesting information, you make yourself boring to toxic relatives, and eliminate any ammo they could use against you.

Choosing to grey-rock prying relatives does not mean you can’t talk about your feelings to anyone! There are anonymous peer support groups waiting 24/7, here.

Hit “Chat Now,” type in a bit of what’s on your mind, and you’ll get connected to others going through similar stuff. It’s troll-free, and free for 24 hours. Best part is there’s no personal info or login required to chat!

We are here to listen and empathize with the anger and frustration you may feel around loved ones. If you ever do feel the need to vent about these emotions, away from those they’re about, you are always welcome at Supportiv.