Narcissists are rarely, if ever, able to acknowledge when they have done wrong by others. While everyone makes mistakes sometimes, narcissists are compelled to use strategies to mask their guilt, and shift the blame to others. Here are 15 fake apologies I’ve seen used by narcissists, along with examples of each:
The Self-Inflating Apology
- “I’m just not worried about …”
- “It’s hard when you are so far behind …”
- “I’m sorry you aren’t able to see that ….”
The self inflating apology is actually a veiled compliment for the narcissist and their over-inflated ego. They will take the opportunity to demonstrate how they are really on another level than your are.
The Gaslighting Apology
- “I’m sorry I don’t know what you are talking about.”
- “I’m sorry you are so out of touch…”
Gaslighting — making the victim think that they are crazy — can often take the form of an pseudo-apology. While often beginning with “I’m sorry,” it will end with a subtle, or not so subtle, insinuation that you imagined the whole thing.
This form of apology is another form of making the victim wrong. They may use this apology as a bridge to bring in third parties to back up their version of the story, and to make you look out of touch with reality.
The Minimizing Apology
- “I was just kidding.”
- “I was just trying to help.”
- “I was just playing devil’s advocate.”
With a minimizing apology, the narcissist will insist that the slight is really nothing at all. In fact, they were just using what they said for your benefit. And the fact you took offense is just another sign that you aren’t’ grateful for everything good that they do for you.
The Shift-the-Blame Apology
- “I am sorry that you think…”
- “I am sorry that you feel I am a bad person.”
- “I am sorry, but maybe you’re just too sensitive.”
Yet another way of shifting the blame away from themselves. In this form of attack apology, the narcissist will overtly accuse the victim of wrong doing. While other forms of fake apologies will usually just insinuate wrong doing on the victim’s part.
The Conditional Apology
- “I would apologies if you didn’t…”
- “I’m sorry, but if you would just admit that…”
The conditional apology is a way of holding back from a true apology, and returning scrutiny to the behavior of their victim.
In this form of fake apology, the narcissist will imply that an apology on their part is not warranted, because what their victim did is so much worse. This makes them the true victim.
Often times this form of apology will hang require the victim to perform some kind of penance for their wrong doing. Of course, usually the conditions set by the narcissist will be practically impossible to realistically achieve on the part of the victim. Or, the goal line will be constantly moving, so no matter what the victim does, it will never be enough.
The Deja-Vu Apology
- “I already said I was sorry.”
- “I have apologized for that a dozen times.”
In this form of fake apology, the narcissist will act like they have already put a rest to the issue. They may refer to you previously fake apologies, or make up past events of reconciliation that never truly happened.
This form of apology is another form of veiled accusation, where the narcissist pretends that the victim is too easily hurt or demanding. That the victim is repeatedly asking for an apology that they already got, as a form of domination. This makes the narcissist the victim of their own story, on the true victim their oppressor.
- “I regret that you …”
- “I regret that mistakes were made.”
The phantom or non-apology is a form of non-specific apology that essentially apologizes for nothing in particular.
In this way, the narcissist will avoid admitting that they did anything wrong. Instead they offer up this general apologetic statement as a means of placating the victim without any feelings of remorse.
The Minimizing Apology
- “I probably…”
- “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”
- “Maybe I should have asked you first.”
In this form of apology, the narcissist attempts to make their wrong doing as small as possible. Relegating it to a simple misunderstanding or casual mistake.
For instance, if the narcissist committed a severe breach of your privacy — reading your private messages for instance — they may say, “I should have asked first.” Or, “I didn’t think you would mind.”
The Nothing-to-Apologize-for Apology
- “You know I’d never hurt you.”
- “You know I am sorry.”
- “You know I didn’t mean that.”
In this form of fake apology, the narcissist doesn’t acknowledge their specific wrong doing. Instead they redirect to their posture of generally good intent.
The narcissist will act like they are are your best friend or a trustworthy lover. And, that anything that they did was only for your best interest.
Likewise, they will try to make out any object that the victim has, or any request for apology, as a rebuke or rejection of their love for the victim. Again, the narcissist is trying to turn the tables, making the victim seem ungrateful or unworthy of their “perfect” love.
The Invisible Apology
- “I guess I owe you an apology.”
- “I guess I should say I am sorry.”
This form of non-apology is simply a statement that an apology is due, but no statement of remorse, or willingness to acknowledge what the narcissist did wrong.
Essentially, it is a way for the narcissist to seem like they are apologizing with actually needing to do so.
The Pay-to-Play Apology
- “I’ll apologize only if apologize for …”
- “I will apologize if you agree never to bring it up again.”
- “I will apologize, but you have to forgive me.”
This form of apology is a purely business like affair. They are saying, if I concede and give you what you want, then you owe me for it.
Unfortunately, this in to a real expression of remorse or a wish to change their behavior form the narcissist. When a narcissist feels that they have few other options, they may stoop to this strategy as a way to feign an apology while salvaging some measure of dominance in the situation.
The Not-My-Apology Apology
- “I was told to…”
Another way that narcissus apologize without admitting they’ve done wrong is the “Not-My_Apology” apology. This strategy places the impetus for the apology on another.
The narcissist is making it clear that they are apologizing under duress, or as a favor to another, and not because they admit that they have done wrong.
This can also be cover for a situation when a narcissist feel like an apology is one way to “fix” the situation they have caused, and are seeking cover to prevent a blow to their ego.
The Takeaway Apology
- “I’m sorry, but…”
- “I’m sorry, but other people thought what I said was funny.”
- “I’m sorry, but you started it.”
- “I’m sorry, but it’s the truth”
This form of “apology” starts out like an apology, but ends with the narcissist doubling down on their original behavior. It hurts doubly, because they are demonstrating that they don’t believe their original behavior was a problem, and they are making it clear that the victim is at fault for wanting any apology at all.
The One-Size-Fits-All Apology
- “I am sorry for all the things I have done that upset you.”
- “I apologize for every bad thing I’ve done.”
This form of apology is any general or non-specific statement of remorse that refuses to acknowledge the specific way in which the narcissist hurt the victim.
Usually, blanket apologies are said in a way in which the victim is made to feel like they are overly critical of the narcissist, or that the narcissist is being bullied because everyone thinks they are a bad person.
This type of cutting apology is meant to make the victim feel like they are overly critical. And, to make onlookers feel sorry for the narcissist.