In my previous article (which you can read here), I discussed DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender), the manipulative tactic that abusers use as a defensive tool to gain control when you confront them about their unacceptable behaviour.

Recognising and addressing DARVO is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and protecting your mental well-being.

In this article, I’ll briefly cover DARVO for context and provide a comprehensive guide on tackling and effectively dealing with someone using these manipulative tactics.

In the extended YouTube version of this article, I also discuss ten comebacks to use to tackle various issues you may have with a bully. You can watch it here.

Understanding Darvo

DARVO is a manipulation strategy often used by individuals who feel threatened or defensive when confronted with their behaviour.

The acronym stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Let’s break down each component:


The manipulator denies any wrongdoing or responsibility for their actions. They may minimise their behaviour, downplay its impact, or outright deny any involvement.


Next, the manipulator may launch a counterattack, blaming the victim for the situation or accusing them of exaggeration, distortion, or outright falsehoods.

This attack is meant to shift the focus away from the manipulator’s actions and onto the victim.

Reverse Victim and Offender

In this stage, the manipulator flips the narrative, portraying themselves as the victim and casting the actual victim as the offender.

This reversal aims to confuse and manipulate perceptions, making it challenging for the victim to defend themselves.

Recognising DARVO

Identifying DARVO tactics is the first step in effectively addressing them. Here are some common signs that someone may be using DARVO against you:

Denial of Responsibility

The individual consistently denies any wrongdoing or refuses to take responsibility for their actions when you raise your concerns.

Blaming the Victim

The manipulator shifts blame onto you, making you feel guilty or responsible for the situation. This is an extreme form of gaslighting.

Aggressive Counterattacks

Instead of addressing the issue at hand, the manipulator responds with aggression, attacking your character or credibility.

Playing the Victim Card

The manipulator portrays themselves as the victim, emphasising their supposed suffering at your hands to gain sympathy and divert attention.

Strategies for Addressing DARVO

1. Address the Issue Directly

Firstly, I would always recommend dealing with the issue as soon as possible directly with the offender.

There’s more on how to address different types of issues in the YouTube video version.

2. Document Incidents

Maintaining a Record: Keeping a detailed record of incidents, including dates, times, witnesses and descriptions of manipulative behaviours, is absolutely crucial. I cannot stress this enough. Also, keep any emails, text messages or hard evidence.

I recommend keeping this information secure. In other words, do not leave it at work or keep it on your work laptop.

Documentation will be absolutely essential if, at some point, you decide to take formal action against the abuser. HR will only be able to take your concerns forward with this evidence. I can’t begin to emphasise how important it is.

3. Engaging HR or Management

Formal Complaints: If your informal attempts to address DARVO prove ineffective (and I’ll discuss this in detail in the next article/video), I recommend escalating the matter to HR or more senior management.

When you do this, it is crucial to clearly outline the manipulative behaviours and their impact on the work environment WITH EVIDENCE.

One thing I must address here is that in every video I’ve done where I recommend raising concerns with HR, someone has commented that raising bullying as an issue with HR is a waste of time.

Before I set up my coaching practice 15 years ago, I was in HR for almost 20 years and am still very connected to that profession. I have seen HR take concerns seriously AND take appropriate action towards the offender or offenders.

However, I have also seen the opposite. That said, I still recommend it as a crucial step in tackling workplace bullying.

4. Set Boundaries

I’ve discussed boundaries in detail in an earlier video. You can watch it here.

In essence, I recommend setting boundaries around:

  • Your time (when and how the manager is allowed to contact you, e.g. strictly only in set work hours)
  • Your working hours (sticking to your contracted hours as much as possible)
  • The topics you are willing to discuss (in other words, you will not discuss non-work-related issues)
  • Your physical space (that could be your workspace or proximity to you, in other words, how closely someone stands to you or physical touch).

5. Go ‘Grey Rock’

This is a brilliant tactic that I advise all of my coaching clients who are facing narcissistic bosses or family members to use.

With the Grey Rock tactic, you literally behave as a rock would. You don’t respond to anything with emotion. You give only factual responses and don’t rise to any manipulation, bullying or intimidation.

You behave passively. You aren’t rude or nasty, and you respond factually and without emotion when asked questions.

I have an article/video on this topic coming up soon, so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.

5. Educating the Workplace

Raising Awareness: Raising awareness about DARVO within the workplace can contribute to a culture that recognises and addresses manipulative behaviours.

I work closely with organisations to deliver workshops, training sessions, and awareness campaigns to help educate employees about workplace bullying dynamics.

Bullies, especially narcissistic ones, are professional manipulators. They are great at hiding in plain sight and thrive where people pretend not to see their behaviour.

Educating yourself and others is critical, which is why I created the four-part ‘Narcissism in the Workplace’ series. You can watch it here.

The Wrap-Up

Bullies are cowards and, therefore, tend to pick on who they consider to be ‘easy targets’. Therefore, they are unlikely to choose people who stand up for themselves and don’t allow them to get away with their abusive behaviour.

By asserting yourself and tackling their unacceptable behaviour head-on AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after it begins (if possible), communicate to the abuser that you aren’t going to be an easy target for them, and they’ll likely leave you alone.

Bullies are weak, insecure individuals who take great pleasure in building themselves up by putting others down.

Once you stand up to them and remain consistent in your approach, they’ll likely leave you alone. You’ll probably never have a decent relationship with them, but then again, why would you want to?

What Next?

As I mentioned earlier, in the extended YouTube version of this article, I also discuss ten comebacks to use to tackle various issues you may have with a bully. You can watch it here.

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Finally, as always, thank you for your continued support.

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