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Monday, 09 Nov 2020

10 Fake Apologies That Narcissists Use to Keep You in Their Grasp

By Dr Becky Spelman
10 Fake Apologies That Narcissists Use | Private Therapy Clinic

We’ve all been on the end of insincere apologies from time to time. Sometimes, we have to make peace through gritted teeth for the sake of the greater good, whether in work or family situations. These are apologies of circumstance and while forced are at least well-intended. In the case of narcissists, however, the game is slightly different. When you receive an apology from someone with sociopathic tendencies, there’s an undercurrent of untruth. There is always some subtle form of subtext at play which side-steps the accepting of responsibility. Here are some of the most common styles of fake apologies you should be aware of

10 Different Types of Narcissistic Apology

  1. The Minimising Apology

This type of apology is a hallmark of verbal abuse. It places the onus back on the victim and creates a subtle form of gaslighting. You’re most likely to hear it within the context of someone saying they were ‘only joking,’ after pushing your boundaries to breaking point. You then become the issue for being too uptight or rigid. You might also hear this type of apology trying to pass off previous wrongdoing as constructive criticism or well-intentioned help, such as, ‘I was only trying to help.’

  1. The Blame-Shift Apology

Here, the reversal of this apology is a little more subtle, and you may not pick up on it immediately. That’s because the opening line is usually along the lines of, ‘I’m sorry that you think/feel that way.’ When this is delivered within sufficient emotion, it can appear like there is an apology taking place due to the inclusion of the word ‘sorry.’ But again, it’s mere than smoke and mirrors. And it amounts to little more than gaslighting on the receiver. Again, making you feel in the wrong for having had such feelings.

  1. The Repeat Apology

The inference here is that the narcissist in question has already apologised. This can often be a follow-up to one of the two previously mentioned apologies. But in some cases, it can just as easily be an outright lie. In following this line of communication, they might attempt to use a previous unrelated apology to skirt the issue. And even in some instances, they might simply use the line of ‘I’ve already apologised’ to shut down the conservation.

  1. The Ghost Apology

The ghost or ‘phantom’ apology is another subtle manipulation of words that are intended to imply remorse but again, places the onus back on the receiver of the apology. This apology is best characterised by the phrase, ‘I regret that you [fill in the action/behaviour].’ The sleight of mouth at play here is the word regret; there is no ownership being taken. And in some cases, depending on the tone being used, it can even come across as passive-aggressive.

  1. The Whitewashing Apology

You could think of this as a half-way form of reconciliation. It’s probably the closest thing to an apology on this list. But it still falls quite some distance from actually verbalising one. It’s similar in some ways to the minimising approach, as it’s best characterised by phrases such as, ‘I probably shouldn’t have done [insert behaviour].’ There is an admittance of some kind of guilt. But the effects of the actions are left hanging in the air. It’s more of a definitely maybe.

  1. The Invisible Apology

Again, the use of sleight of mouth is plat here, as you’ll often hear someone using this angle say something along the lines of, ‘I guess I owe you an apology.’ There is an acknowledgement that action needs to be taken. But again, it’s the suggestion of an apology rather than the actual offering of one. You may have found yourself accepting this in some scenarios from someone you do trust who’s perhaps not all that communicative. But it’s still no less sincere.

  1. The Pay-to-Play Apology

This is where many narcissists can keep you hooked into their narrative if you’re unaware of their subtle tactics. It seems like a fair deal. You’ll both apologise for what you’ve both done. ‘I’ll apologise if you will.’ But what if you’ve done nothing wrong? It simply empowers the narcissist and sets a precedent that can be called upon in future conversations. Thus, you’re creating a bigger problem for yourself in the long run.

  1. The Takeaway Apology

This is the classic bait and switch. ‘I’m sorry, but…’ Whenever you hear an apology followed by the word ‘but,’ there it can never be taken seriously. The ‘I’m sorry’ prefix is simply a way for the narcissist to offer their real thoughts on a conflict, or possibly set up some form of condition for your both to move forward. It’s perhaps the most transparent apology on the list, and you can see it coming a mile away. There is no but required in ‘I’m sorry.’

  1. The Blanket Apology

This seeks to take ownership of the situation by deliberately being as vague as possible. There may be an apology, but it’s so flimsy, it could be used in any context. You might often hear this phrased as, ‘I’m sorry for all the things I’ve done in the past.’ It’s almost there. But again, not quite. There is no real will to make amends. All that’s being communicated is regret. There’s nothing specific being said about why and how things will be different from now on.

  1. The Exasperated Apology

You could also think of this as the ‘I’ve had enough’ apology. There is really not much here in the way of sincerity. If you’re met with this kind of response, you’ll most likely be on the receiving end of biting remarks such as, ‘Fine! I’m sorry!’ And even if you don’t hear the words spoken in such an aggressive fashion, the tone can still be such that it comes off as passive-aggressive – and as a result still no less well-intentioned.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with inter-personal relationshipsand think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here



Psychology Today (20thSept2020)13 Fake Apologies Used By Narcissists. Retrieved on 23rdOctober, 2020 from,

Psych Central (13thMar2017)When a Narcissist Makes an Apology. Retrieved on 23rd October, 2020 from,

Healthline (30thJan2019)11 Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist — and How to Get Out. Retrieved on 23rd October, 2020 from,

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