Apologizing to a Narcissist?
Make it fast!
Narcissists always have to be right. This makes it your job to be wrong. The trouble is, you’re actually often not wrong.
This annoys the narcissist you know immensely.
The narcissist hopes and prays that you will make mistakes more often, and they can’t wait for you to have to admit it to them. They look forward to this day — The Day You Will Finally Have To Admit You Were Wrong — just like a little child waits in eager anticipation for his or her birthday. Like an addict craves a fix. This makes the thought of apologizing to a narcissist feel awful.
What’s most likely to happen when you do apologize?
Well, it’s not generally very good stuff…
Apologize to a non-narcissist, and you’ll probably be forgiven. Apologize to a narcissist, and the most likely result is smug, victorious expectations of more subservience, more apologizing from you, more admissions of inferiority and more demands to please the narcissist. These actions are all driven by their massive egos, and their egos must remain convinced the narcissist is superior.
You’ve finally admitted what they’ve wisely known since meeting you — you’re completely inferior to them. It took a long time to teach you this, so there’s no way they’re going to let the lesson go un-reinforced.
However, narcissists aren’t all carbon copies of one another, and the way one narcissist chooses to reinforce your “learning” may be different from the tactic another narcissist tries. But no matter the delivery or angle — the message is always the same:
You are right to be wrong, and should do it more often.
Here are the most common ways most narcissists will respond to your apology:
The Dirty Laundry List
When you apologize, sometimes narcissists will launch into a list of all the other things you supposedly need to be extremely sorry about. Things you did last week, last month, last year…the list is long, and they are fuming. You are vastly and immensely wrong on a regular basis, and they’ve been such a good person, never bringing it all up!
But…now that you mention your shortcomings…come to think of it, while they have you, there are PLENTY of other things you need to get oh-so-very-sorry about! They figure they’ve gotten a few drops of blood out of you, so they feel encouraged — why not try for a gallon and see just how far down they can make you hang your head?
Smug and Smarmy Patronization
Oh, see now, isn’t it so much better when you just admit you’re an idiot and they know best? Things run so much more smoothly when you know your place, don’t they? You really should be commended for your eventual progress in understanding your limitations. You may receive a little “gift” of some kind as a reward for finally bowing down like a good underling. Good for you, little dumbo. You’ve at least finally learned to please.
Well, now. They were just WAITING for the day when you FINALLY had the guts to approach them and discuss this UN-FOR-GIVE-A-BLE atrocity! They’ve been so incensed about this that they REFUSED – just REFUSED to be the first to speak! Why should THEY have to bring it up?! It’s unthinkable enough that you victimized them! They don’t know if they can EVER discuss this, really, much less forgive you. What you did to them is so beyond the pale! You should be permanently ashamed!
Who You? Who Cares!
Oh, did you have something to apologize for? Yes, well, any decent person would have addressed the issue long ago. Whatever. Never mind. They don’t need a cheap little late apology from you. The issue never bothered them anyway, since you never mattered, whatever your name was. They don’t need to address this anyhow, so just be gone and return them to the peaceful superiority you disturbed.
The Phony Acceptance
This one is usually delivered when the narcissist is in the company of someone they can’t have knowing they’re nasty. If the boss is nearby, or someone they’re trying to get a date with is standing there, you’re more likely to get a phony acceptance. Oh, they didn’t even remember that little incident. Why do you worry so much? They have no trouble with it at all! That’s okay! Relax…everything is fine. But it’s not; despite the jolly act, this person hasn’t genuinely changed one bit, and you’ll need to watch your back. You always did.
If you must apologize to a narcissist:
Keep it as brief and breezy as possible, do it with others present if you can, and move on to another topic fairly quickly. If you can manage this, you’ll have a better chance of sidestepping more of the ugly and subversive backlash narcissists are known for. They may still try to do something as a payback, but you might actually manage to escape the toxic drama-trap, if even just for a while.
The overwhelming majority of narcissists do not change for the better, so think damage control and minimize discussion, keeping it as light and unemotional as possible. This will make it harder for them to twist things into a pity game or an attempt to make more trouble.
More about narcissists is available at our “All About Narcissists” page.
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