10 Fake Ways Narcissists Apologize (And How To Respond)

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Narcissists apologize in strange ways, often unsettling you further.

Their extreme self-righteousness prevents them from admitting wrongdoing. It is a defensive mechanism that shields their fragile egos.

Two reasons for this stem from their personality disorder:

  • First, they rarely feel regret, guilt, or remorse. If you know a narcissist, you’d have noticed that it’s too hard for them to naturally utter “Sorry.”
  • Second, their lack of empathy and “me-always-first” attitude can make them not care about whether their apologies mean anything to you.

Their apologies can trigger your anger, desperation, or hopelessness. And can further hurt feelings, break trust, and damage an unstable relationship.

Let’s find out how they apologize and how you should respond so that you can have your emotional well-being and mental peace.

A typical narcissist will stubbornly refuse to take responsibility for their misdeeds and mistakes. So their apologies typically shirk responsibility, minimize what was done, or make things seem less important or more confusing.

how narcs apologize
How Do Narcissists Apologize In Fake Ways

If they are forced to take the blame, these are 10 ways they usually apologize:

1. The “Non-Apology” Apology

A “non-apology apology,” also called a nonpology or fauxpology, is an apology statement that does not express remorse for things done or said.

A narcissist’s “non-apology apology” is typically superficial and lacks genuine feelings of regret or sadness for doing wrong or harm.

  • “I’m sorry you are upset.”
  • “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”
  • “I’m sorry you didn’t get what you wanted.”

Why do narcissists make such non-apologies? They want to make you feel pacified and move on quickly, so you don’t hurt or leave them.

6 Facts On Why 7 When Narcissists Apologize

2. The Backhanded Apology

Sometimes, they offer a backhanded apology, apologies that are loaded with insults or criticisms.

  • “I’m sorry, but you’re too sensitive.”
  • “I’m sorry, but you should have known better.”
  • “I’m sorry if I offended you. No one else would have felt offended.”

Backhanded apologies aim to minimize the impact of the speaker’s actions and blame the victim for having created the situation. It’s practically as good as victim-shaming.

Know this: Apologies that include qualifiers like if/but often lack authenticity. Reject all apologies that sound like these: “I’m sorry if…” or “I’m sorry but….”

The Narcissist's Apologies Frustrate & Confuse You
The Narcissist’s “Sorry, but…” Apologies Frustrate You

3. The Selfish Apology

The selfish apology is specifically motivated by the narcissist’s desire to maintain control over the relationship, to escape consequences, or to avoid having to make any real changes to their behavior.

Narcissist: “I’m so sorry for cheating on you, but I was really stressed out at work and I needed an outlet.”

The narcissist’s actions on their partner are not the focus of the selfish apology. Instead, it plays up the narcissist’s own needs and issues, and how their behavior was justified.

The real purpose is to gain forgiveness without having to make any real changes to their behavior. They think a “Sorry” would push the present issues under the carpet.

4. The Convenient Apology

Some occasions when it is convenient for narcissists to tender an apology:

  • When they need something from you. Narcissists excel at getting what they want from others, often by hook or crook. If they need something from you, they may apologize to make you more likely to give it to them. For example, if a narcissist wants your help with a project, they might apologize for something they did in the past to make you feel more likely to say yes.
  • When they are trying to avoid consequences. They typically see themselves as above the rules and don’t like to be held accountable for their actions. However, if they realize they are about to face consequences for their behavior, they may apologize to avoid them. For example, if a narcissist is about to be fired, they might apologize for even “non-mistakes” to their boss to keep their job.
  • When they are trying to maintain control over a relationship. Narcissists often need to feel in control of their relationships. Whenever they feel like they are losing control, they may apologize to regain their control. For example, if their partner is threatening to leave them, they might apologize to convince them to stay.
  • When they are trying to manipulate someone. They are often very manipulative and use people to get what they want. They may apologize to manipulate someone into doing something for them or to make them feel guilty. For example, they might apologize to their partner to get them to give them money or to make them feel bad for not paying enough attention to them.

The apology of convenience helps them avoid being punished physically, mentally, or financially.

5. The Conditional Apology

Narcissists may offer a conditional apology when they apologize if you do something for them in return.

Narcissist: “I’m sorry if I hurt you, but will you forgive me if I buy you dinner?”

The ‘sorry’ is only there if the other person forgives them immediately, like putting a gun to the victim’s head while offering an apology.

If the other person does not forgive them right away, they may lash out or become defensive.

6. The Fake-Empathy Apology

Narcissists may use apologies to create the illusion of compassion and empathy.

Narcissist: “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I can’t imagine how much pain I must have caused you. I’m such a terrible person.”

The narcissist is not actually sorry for their actions. They are simply saying what they need to say to create the illusion that they are soft-hearted and sensitive.

They are trying to make themselves look good, to avoid criticism, and to maintain their image as a good and moral person. The idea is to get you to forgive them or overlook their bad behavior.

Even if they don’t truly feel sorry for their actions, they may feel pressured to comply with societal norms of politeness and remorse.

7. The Blame-Shifting Apology

Narcissists can be of six types, and most of them use the blame-shifting apology, where they apologize but then shift the blame onto the other person.

Narcissist: “I’m sorry if that’s what you want, but you’re too sensitive. I was only joking around.”

Narcissist: “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me so angry.”

The narcissist is not actually apologizing. Instead, they’re blaming you:

  • For being too sensitive
  • For misinterpreting their words
  • Make themselves look good by making excuses.

This type of apology does not take responsibility for their actions and places the blame on the other person.

Are a narcissists apologies ever sincere?

8. The Déjà vu Apology

Déjà vu means the experience of being felt before.

In déjà vu apology, the narcissist repeatedly apologizes for the same offense, without actually changing their behavior.

  • “I’m so sorry I cheated on you again. I promise it won’t happen again.”
  • “I’m so sorry I lied to you again. I’m just not good at telling the truth.”

This creates a cycle of abuse where the victim is constantly forgiving the narcissist, only for them to hurt them again and again.

Reasons why narcissists use déjà vu apologies:

  • First, by constantly apologizing, they can convince themselves and others that they are not really to blame for their hurtful behavior.
  • Second, déjà vu apologies help narcissists keep their victims in a cycle of forgiveness and betrayal. They can then break down their victims’ self-esteem and make them more vulnerable to gaslighting.
  • Third, déjà vu apologies can help narcissists avoid consequences. Like avoiding a divorce after being caught repeatedly cheating, or, avoiding getting fired for repeatedly missing work.
How Narcissists Apologize And How To Respond
A Narcissist’s Self-Pitying Apology Makes The Victim Feel Guilty

9. The Self-Pitying Apology

In a “Self-Pitying Apology,” your narcissist details their suffering from being victimized. They are tearful and overemotional in a way that makes you feel sorry for them.

They tell you how depressing the situation is for them, how they are always misinterpreted, or how they have been wronged in the past.

You may even feel guilty to have asked them to apologize—they can have that effect.

  • “I’m sorry. It’s been hard for me. People have always misunderstood me.”
  • “I know I made a mistake; I’d been personally struggling for some time now.”
  • “I know I should have known better, but I’m just not in a good place right now.”
  • “I’m so sorry for letting you down; I am so overwhelmed and overworked these days.”

Self-pitying apologies keep the focus on them, making it all about their needs and struggles. Of course, it lets them sidestep taking responsibility for the hurt they caused you.

Narcissist: “I’m so sorry for cheating on you. I know it’s wrong, but you’ve been acting different lately, and that hurt my self-esteem. I was really struggling. I guess I just needed to feel loved and respected.”

Fake Ways That Narcissists Apologize

10. The Apology That Never Was

It is when narcissists refuse to apologize at all, even when they are clearly wrong. This showcases their lack of empathy and the belief that they have nothing to apologize for.

They are very reluctant to admit that they were wrong.

  • First, they fear that apologizing would make them vulnerable and exposed to future criticism.
  • Second, apologizing would make them take responsibility for their actions, which they hate to do.
  • Third, narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance and think they are superior to others. They are afraid that their superior and perfect image will be shattered if they apologize and admit their faults.

So, they never apologize. They may show a few good gestures like buying presents or inviting to dinners.

True Apology vs, Narcissistic Apology

Genuine ApologyNarcissist Apology
RecognitionSincerely and genuinely appears to recognize the harmDisregards their own actions, focuses on fixing your feelings
May admit harm partially, but shifts all focus to your actions
Tries to make you feel they are doing you a favor by apologizing
ResponsibilityAssumes accountability for actionsEvades responsibility, and blames you for your feelings
Does not admit harm, shifts blame on you or others, or situations
Refuses to takes any responsibility
RemorseGenuinely expresses regretApologizes without real remorse or guilt
Feigns remorse to deceive with flat-faced lies
Refuses to feel regret for having done wrong
RepairMakes amends, tries to rectify issuesMakes no effort to repair or change
Uses excuses, doesn’t change behavior
Continues harmful behavior despite apology
Genuine Apology vs. Narcissistic Fake Apology

How To Respond To A Narcissist’s Apology

Dealing with a narcissist’s justifications and conditions as they deliver their apology can be distressing and triggering.

Here are some tips to help you respond sanely to a narcissist’s apology:

1. Recognizing The Narcissist’s Apology: Expecting Insincerity

When a narcissist apologizes, they may be trying to manipulate you to forgive them, so they may avoid the consequences.

Keep in mind that parts of their apology may be inauthentic and fabricated.

Process their words with caution, staying mindful of the many small and large lies they may be bringing into it.

2. Limitations of Narcissistic Relationships: Realistic Expectations

Have realistic expectations when dealing with a narcissist, at all times.

You cannot change their behavior, and they may not be capable of true empathy or remorse.

Instead of accepting “their versions of the truth” and “I’m sorry but it wasn’t my fault,” limit your interactions with them to transactional, stop expecting them to change, and guard your sanity.

3. Setting & Maintaining Strong Boundaries: Protecting Yourself

When responding to a narcissist’s apology, whether you accept it or not, set and maintain strong boundaries.

Be clear about what you will and will not tolerate, and stick to your boundaries.

Always get them to repeat in their own words what you want them not to do. This will help protect you from further manipulation or abuse.

4. Dealing with Narcissists’ Apologies: Communicating Your Needs

When responding to a narcissist’s apology, communicate your needs clearly and assertively.

If you receive such an apology from a narcissist, be skeptical of their intention and refuse to be fooled into pardoning them.

Tell them you’re not convinced by their words and will rather look at their future actions. If they are not willing to make any real changes to their behavior, then their apology is not sincere.

Let them know how their behavior has impacted you, and what you need from them moving forward.

Be firm, but avoid becoming emotional or engaging in arguments. They are known to use the “word salad” a lot when confronted.

5, Observing Changes in Behavior: Evaluating Their Actions

After a narcissist apologizes, observe their behavior.

Keep track of whether they stick to the words they promised you during the apology. Notice to see whether they are genuinely trying to change.

If they continue to be manipulative or abusive, it might be time to reassess the relationship.

6. Encouraging Positive Behavior: Reinforcing the Good

If a narcissist makes an effort to change for the better, it’s a good idea to recognize it and praise them to reinforce positive behavior.

Let them know when they are being respectful and considerate, and encourage them to keep up the good work.

7. Staying Safe: Identifying & Escaping Dangerous Situations

If you feel at risk or under threat from a narcissist, consider it an emergency and secure your safety without telling them.

Telling them you’re feeling unsafe may make them fly into a rage or become inhumanely cruel.

Take steps to protect yourself. This may include seeking support from friends and family, ending the relationship, or even getting a restraining order.

8. Documenting Your Experience: Keeping A Personal Journal

Keeping a personal journal can help you document your experience with a narcissist.

First, it allows you to record and check what you did or did not do or say when the narcissist is trying to gaslight you.

Second, it can help you identify their patterns and habits, and track their behavior around your boundaries and personal space.

9. Seeking Fulfillment In Other Relationships: Managing Your Emotional Needs

Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally draining. Narcissists are known to isolate you from your social circle.

Unless you build or keep relationships with others, you cannot hope to get an observer’s perspective of your situation.

Seek fulfillment in other relationships and activities to balance your emotional needs.

Spend time with friends and family, pursue hobbies or interests, or reach out to other narcissistic survivors.

3 NARCISSIST APOLOGY TYPES WITH EXAMPLES: And Why You Shouldn't Trust Any of Them!
3 narcissist apology types with examples: Why you shouldn’t trust any of them

Why Do Narcissists Struggle to Apologize?

Narcissists often struggle to apologize for their mistakes.

Here are the reasons why they can’t seem to do it:

1. Narcissist Mindset: Unwillingness to Apologize

Narcissists view themselves as superior to others and believe they are always right (almost like God, perfect, omniscient, and omnipotent).

Apologizing would mean admitting they were wrong, which goes against their self-image.

They also fear that apologizing will make them appear weak or vulnerable, which they cannot tolerate.

So they take to blaming others for their mistakes, which allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their deeds.

2. Apologies As Surrender: Manipulating Relationships

Narcissists manipulate others to maintain control over their relationships. So they see their apology as an admission of guilt and as surrender.

Also, they feel that you may use their apology and admission to ridicule or manipulate them in the future.

They believe that apologizing would take away their authority and literally imagine themselves being placed on a lower pedestal.

So, they stall. Instead of apologizing quickly and directly, they keep evading confrontation until you have forgotten the issue or they have gained your sympathy and automatic pardon.

3. Absence of Genuine Remorse: Lack of Self-Reflection and Empathy

Narcissists lack the ability to feel genuine remorse for their actions.

They do not have the capacity for self-reflection and are unable to understand how their behavior affects others.

Narcissists also lack empathy, which makes it difficult for them to understand or care about the feelings of others.

Only when they are under too much pressure (to protect their reputation or to maintain their facade of perfection), they do apologize, but much of it is insincere and does not address the underlying issues.

Without genuine remorse, their apologies are empty and meaningless.

4. Narcissistic Trauma Bonds: The Toxic Cycle of Abuse

Narcissistic apologies can be part of a toxic cycle of narcissistic abuse.

Narcissists may apologize after they have hurt someone, and show a few gestures of kindness and love, only to repeat the same behavior later on.

This often creates a trauma bond, where the victim becomes emotionally attached to the abuser and believes that the apologies are genuine.

Unfortunately, this trauma bonding is the reason many narcissistic abuse victims keep going back to their offenders after breaking up with them. It can also make them gravitate toward someone else who is also a narcissist.

The cycle of abuse often continues for years, making the victim feel trapped in the relationship and acquire learned helplessness.

Why Do Narcissists Apologize (Sometimes)?

So, why then narcissists apologize on a few occasions?

The main motive for a narcissist to apologize is to keep you in the relationship, to fulfill their selfish needs of narcissistic supply. They fear that if they don’t apologize, you may leave and take away their supply.

Their narcissistic supply is your constant attention and praise, your patiently listening to how horrible others are, and your presence being someone they can humiliate to feel better about themselves.

They need their supply to survive. It sustains their grandiose fantasies of superiority and infallibility. It keeps their low self-esteem from shattering away.

“Finally, the DSM V accepted what I have been saying for decades: that narcissists can have an “inferiority complex” and feel worthless and bad; that they go through cycles of ups and downs in their self-evaluation; and that this cycling influences their mood and affect.”

Sam Vaknin, the world’s foremost authority on Narcissistic Personality Disorder


How to respond to a fake apology from a narcissist?

1. Stay calm: Avoid getting emotional or defensive.
2. Focus on actions: Observe behavior, not just words.
3. Set boundaries: Clarify expectations and consequences.
4. Seek external support: Rely on friends, family, or therapists.
5. Maintain perspective: Remember their manipulation tactics.

What happens that makes a narcissist apologize?

1. Rare remorse: Occasionally, genuine regret for their actions.
2. Testing boundaries: Gauging how much they can get away with.
3. Manipulation: Using insincere apologies to deceive and exploit others.
4. Reestablishing power: Attempting to regain control in the relationship.
5. Self-preservation: Apologizing to maintain control and avoid losing narcissistic supply.

What happens when you ignore a narcissist’s apology?

1. Frustration: Narcissists may feel irritated by the lack of attention.
2. Escalation: They might intensify their attempts to regain control.
3. Smear campaign: Spreading rumors or lies to tarnish your image.
4. Discard: Potentially ending the relationship if they feel threatened.
5. Self-reflection: In rare cases, your ignoring may lead them to introspect.

Final Words: Takeaways

Handling a narcissist can be exhausting. Prioritize your physical and mental well-being; lean on a therapist, friend, or family member to stay grounded and maintain perspective.

3 Takeaways:

  • Narcissists are good at saying what others want to hear, and freely use apologies to manipulate; so watch if their behavior matches their words and check for genuine remorse.
  • They thrive on drama, so keep your calm and avoid getting defensive or emotional when they apologize, as this prevents them from gaining an edge.
  • If you accept a narcissist’s apology, set clear boundaries, outlining your expectations and spelling out the consequences for their future misconduct.

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