The Worst Apologies Made by Narcissists: What They Really Mean

Narcissists aren’t particularly skilled at apologizing. In fact, offering a genuine apology runs counter to their instincts.

After all, narcissists convince themselves that they are superior to others. They do so to cover up their underlying insecurities, which would erode their self-esteem if they brought them to the forefront.

Offering an apology generally means admitting to wrongdoing, which the narcissist is not prepared to do. Taking accountability for a mistake would mean the narcissist is imperfect and, therefore, not as superior as they’d like to think they are.

Narcissists also struggle with empathy, so they don’t typically feel remorse for what they’ve done. All of this adds up to half-hearted, fake apologies. 

When a narcissist apologizes, it’s likely to be insincere. It will probably also take on one of the forms below.

#1 An Apology That Comes with Conditions 

The narcissist is unlikely to just offer an apology without strings attached. That would be too kind of them. 

Instead, they’ll state that they’ll apologize, as long as you apologize to them first. This allows them to share some of the blame with you.

Apologizing without asking for anything from you in return would mean admitting defeat. The narcissist would view this as a sign of weakness, so they need to feel like they’re getting something from you as well.

This tactic also allows them to maintain a sense of power and control. Rather than relinquishing control, they’re still making you play by their rules. 

When a narcissist apologizes this way, it doesn’t mean they’re genuinely remorseful. Instead, they’re telling you they’ll take a little accountability if you do it first. In their mind, you’re in the wrong. 

#2 The Blame-Shifting Apology

Another classic narcissist apology involves blame shifting. They will say that they’re sorry for what they did, but they’ll be sure to point out that they’d never have done it had you not set them off.

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For example, they may yell, scream, and rage at you over a minor inconvenience and then insist that they never would have acted that way had you not been so selfish. 

The apology sounds like, “I’m sorry I screamed at you, but you should know better than to set me off like that.” 

This apology communicates that the narcissist blames you for their behavior. They take no accountability and remain in control of the narrative by convincing you that you’re to blame. 

#3 The Dismissive Apology

Also among the narcissist’s worst apologies is the dismissive apology. This one is easy to identify, and you’ve probably heard it before. It sounds like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” 

Again, they’re shifting the blame onto you. The problem isn’t that they hurt you; the problem is that you dare to be upset about it. 

The narcissist entirely dismisses your feelings and takes no responsibility for the fact that they’ve been hurtful. This sort of apology means that they think you’re too sensitive. If only you could be tougher, they wouldn’t have to apologize! 

#4 The Minimization Apology 

If the narcissist does apologize, they’ll be sure to minimize their behavior. They will say they’re sorry for what they did, and then quickly shift to explaining why what they did wasn’t that bad. 

They’ll have a million excuses for their behavior, all minimizing the severity of their wrongdoing. Maybe you caught them cheating, and they try to tell you, “It was just sex; we never went on a date” 

This apology means the narcissist cannot face the reality of what they’ve done. Their fragile egos won’t allow them to look honestly at their misbehavior. To protect themselves from enormous shame, they minimize the situation, which allows them to maintain their self-esteem. 

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#5 The Apology That’s Actually Manipulation 

In some instances, a narcissist may give what seems like the most sincere, heartfelt apology you’ve ever heard. When this happens, there’s always an ulterior motive.

This sort of apology occurs when the narcissist is afraid they’ve pushed you too far. Maybe you’ve been emotionally distant from them or even threatened to end the relationship.

When the narcissist thinks you’ve had it, they will try to flatter you with a seemingly genuine apology. They’ll make promises to change, which might seem like they own up to their behavior.

Rest assured that this is an act of manipulation. The narcissist is fooling you so you’ll give them another chance, and they can continue to maintain control over you.

When you get this sort of apology, it means the narcissist wants to con you into believing they’ll change, so they don’t lose you as a source of narcissistic supply. 

#6 An Apology Where They Play The Victim

Narcissists are experts at playing the victim when it suits them. If they know they’re wrong, they can take back their control by playing the role of the victim.

In this scenario, they’ll offer a wimpy apology and then tell you a sob story about why they had to act the way they did. Of course, they’ll blame someone else for backing them into a corner.

They may even shed a few tears to make you feel sorry for them. In the end, they avoid taking accountability, and they can maintain their sense of superiority.

This sort of apology means the narcissist knows they can pull one over on you. They realize you’re kind, and because they view you as weak, they think they can guilt you into feeling sorry for them. Once this happens, you’ll forget the narcissist was the one who was supposed to be sorry. 

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Protecting Yourself From Fake Apologies 

The sad truth is that the worst apologies you get from a narcissist are always fake. They may offer a half-hearted apology or make you share some of the blame before they express any degree of remorse. Sometimes, they seem genuinely sorry but only try to manipulate you.

The bottom line is that you can rarely rely upon an apology from a narcissist. You only set yourself up for disappointment if you think they will change their behavior. 

To protect yourself, it’s important to be aware of red flags. An apology in which the narcissist plays the victim makes excuses, or demands that you share the blame isn’t genuine. Don’t accept anything but a genuine apology. 

If the narcissist appears to be genuine, hold them to it. If they don’t follow through with changing whatever behavior led to the need for an apology, you can be certain they’re just manipulating you.

When a narcissist repeatedly hurts you, your best option is usually walking away from the relationship because they’re unlikely to change, no matter what type of apology they offer. 

If you must stay in a relationship with this person, it’s important to remember to set healthy boundaries, keep your expectations realistic, and take time for self-care. You may not be able to change a narcissist’s behavior, but you can change the way you respond to and cope with it. 

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