Discover these false excuses from narcissistic people and why they can make you feel worse than ever.
From time to time, almost all of us make mistakes that hurt others. Fortunately, a sincere apology can soothe feelings, restore trust, and instill healing in a damaged relationship.
Authentic and sincere apologies, however, are rarely given by narcissists. Dealing with other people’s feelings or restoring trust are usually not top priorities for narcissists. Reluctant to admit their mistakes, narcissists focus on preserving their image and protecting themselves from the discomfort they cause others.
Apologies that begin with phrases such as “I’m sorry but” or “I’m sorry if” often lack authenticity. Such false excuses should avoid taking responsibility, make excuses, minimize what was done, invalidate, confuse, or advance prematurely.
13 common false excuses
While many of us sometimes miss the mark by apologizing, a telling characteristic of narcissists is their tendency to refuse to apologize or to make excuses that leave others disappointed, confused, or feeling worse.
Here are 13 common false apologies used by narcissists, and examples of each:
Minimizing apologies: “I was just…”
- “I was just kidding,”
- “I was just trying to help.”
- “I was just playing devil’s advocate.”
Minimizing excuses claims that hurtful behavior is harmless or done for a good cause.
Apologies that make the other person feel guilty: “I’m sorry that you…”
- “I’m sorry you think I did something wrong.”
- “I’m sorry you think I’m a bad person.”
- “I’m sorry, but maybe you’re just too sensitive.”
These hollow excuses put the burden on the person who was hurt.
The conditional apology: “I’m sorry if…”
- “I’m sorry if something I said offended you.”
- “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.”
- “I’m sorry if I might have done something wrong.”
A conditional apology is not a full apology, only suggesting that something may have been hurtful.
The already seen apology: “I have already…”
- “I’ve already said I’m sorry.”
- “I’ve apologized for that a dozen times.”
Such statements do not contain a real apology. They imply that the case is closed.
The phantom apology: “I’m sorry…”
- “I regret that you feel upset.”
- “I regret that mistakes were made.”
Regret is a feeling. Apologizing is an action. Telling someone that you regret what happened does not appropriate hurtful behavior.
Apologies for clearing up: “I probably should have…”
- “I probably shouldn’t have done that.”
- “Maybe I should have asked you first.
Apologies for venting to minimize any harm by offering a self-effacing posture without assuming the consequences.
The excuses for not apologizing: “You know that I …”
- “You know I would never hurt you. “
- You know I’m sorry.”
- “You know I didn’t mean it.”
This implies that you shouldn’t be upset or that the other person is trying to talk you out of your feelings.
The invisible apology: “I guess I …”
- “I guess I owe you an apology.”
- “I guess I should tell you I’m sorry.”
These suggest the need to apologize but do not offer an apology.
The win-win apology: “I apologize if…”
- “I’ll apologize if you want me to.”
- “I’ll apologize if you agree to never talk about it again.”
- “I will apologize, but you must forgive me.”
Narcissists are transactional. They are not clear and freely offered apologies; they are attempting to make up for them.
Apologies that are not his own apology: “I was told to…”
- “Your mother told me to apologize.”
- “My friend thinks I should tell you I’m sorry.”
This apology suggests that the person is only apologizing because someone else suggested it. You are even wondering if the narcissist even believes he or she did something wrong.
The take-home 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 I just couldn’t help myself.”
- “I’m sorry, but I was just telling the truth.”
Takeout apologies can be worse than no apology at all because they add insult to the original injury.
The general apology: “All those times…”
- “I’m sorry for all the things I did that upset you.”
- “I apologize for all the bad things I’ve done.”
General apologies like these seek to clean the slate but can offer a sign that a narcissist does not understand what he or she has said or done that was hurtful.
Reluctant excuses: “Enough already…”.
- “Good! I’m sorry, okay! »
- “Okay, I’m sorry about that…
- “Just give me a second, I’m sorry, okay?”
- “What do you want me to do, get at your feet?”
Whether in words or in tone, such reluctant apologies do not offer to heal. They can even be felt as a threat.
In the efforts of narcissists to avoid guilt, they often combine several false excuses at once, such as “I’m sorry if I said something that offended you, but I have strong opinions. Maybe you’re too sensitive” or “I guess I should tell you I’m sorry. But you know I would never deliberately hurt you. I was just trying to help you.”
What is a real apology?
A real apology has most or all of the following characteristics:
- Contains no conditions or minimizes what was done.
- Shows that the person apologizing understands and empathizes with the offended person’s experience and feelings.
- Shows remorse.
- Offers a commitment to avoid repeating hurtful behavior.
- Offers to make amends or restitution, if appropriate.
Apologizing for means hearing honestly what happened from the other person’s perspective and how it affected him or her. But narcissists tend not to be interested in listening to others, especially if the subject is something the narcissists may have done wrong.
Unfortunately, expressing empathy and remorse is often a bridge too far for most narcissists.
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