Covert Narcissist Apology
Covert Narcissist Apology

Welcome to a deep dive into the world of covert narcissism and the enigma of the Covert Narcissist Apology. In this article, we’ll unveil the intricate web of manipulation, denial, and insincerity that often lurks behind the seemingly remorseful words of individuals with covert narcissistic traits.

Discover how covert narcissists leverage the art of the apology to maintain control, avoid consequences, and protect their image. Delve into the profound impact these apologies have on their victims and learn how to recognize, respond to, and ultimately break free from this cycle of manipulation. Join us on a journey of understanding and empowerment as we decode the covert narcissist apology, one layer at a time.

Understanding Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is a subtle yet profoundly manipulative personality trait that often flies under the radar. To grasp the covert narcissist apology, we must first understand what covert narcissism entails. In this section, we’ll explore the definition of covert narcissism, key traits that define covert narcissists, and how covert narcissism differs from its more overt counterpart.

Definition of Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism, a subset of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), is characterized by a facade of modesty and humility that conceals a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, and grandiosity. While overt narcissists display their grandiose and arrogant behaviors openly, covert narcissists hide behind a mask of apparent selflessness and victimhood.

Key Traits of Covert Narcissists

To identify covert narcissists and decode their apologies, it’s crucial to recognize their distinct traits, such as:

  • Manipulative Charm: Covert narcissists are skilled at appearing empathetic and kind, using their charm to manipulate those around them.
  • Gaslighting: They excel at distorting reality, making their victims doubt their own perceptions and feelings.
  • Blame-Shifting: Covert narcissists frequently deflect blame onto others to avoid responsibility for their actions.
  • Denial: They deny their own faults and maintain a facade of innocence.
  • Elitism and Exploitation: Covert narcissists often exploit others for their own gain while believing they are superior.

How Covert Narcissism Differs from Overt Narcissism

Covert narcissism stands in stark contrast to overt narcissism in terms of presentation. While overt narcissists openly flaunt their grandiosity and arrogance, covert narcissists cloak these traits behind a mask of apparent humility and victimization. Understanding this distinction is vital for deciphering the covert narcissist apology, as a covert narcissist’s tactics are often veiled in a cloak of apparent remorse and vulnerability.

The Covert Narcissist Apology: Deconstructing the Facade

When a covert narcissist offers an apology, it may appear sincere on the surface. However, beneath the seemingly remorseful words lies a web of manipulation and insincerity. In this section, we’ll dissect the covert narcissist apology, exploring the superficiality and insincerity that often characterizes it, the manipulative techniques covert narcissists employ in their apologies, and the common red flags that can help you identify one.

Superficiality and Insincerity

Covert narcissist apologies are marked by their superficiality. These individuals often lack genuine remorse and empathy, and their apologies tend to be more about preserving their image than making amends. They may say the right words but lack the emotional depth and sincerity that genuine apologies possess.


Imagine a covert narcissist who apologizes for hurting someone’s feelings but does so with a detached tone and a lack of true empathy, making it clear that their primary concern is not making amends but avoiding further conflict.

Manipulative Techniques Used in Apologies

Covert narcissists are masters of manipulation, and their apologies are no exception. They may employ various tactics to manipulate the recipient’s emotions and perception of the situation. These techniques include:

  • Playing the Victim Role: Covert narcissists are experts at playing the victim and may present themselves as the injured party, deflecting attention from their actions and casting themselves as the ones who need sympathy.
  • Gaslighting: They may subtly distort the facts or question the recipient’s memory to make the victim doubt their own feelings or perceptions.
  • Blame-Shifting: Covert narcissists might shift the blame onto the recipient or others, avoiding taking responsibility for their actions.
  • Denial: They may downplay or deny their wrongdoing, insisting that the recipient is overreacting or misinterpreting the situation.


A covert narcissist apologizes for a hurtful comment by saying, “I’m sorry if you took it that way,” implying that the recipient is overly sensitive and twisting the blame onto them.

Common Red Flags in Covert Narcissist Apologies

Recognizing a covert narcissist apology requires a keen eye for certain red flags. Some of the telltale signs include:

  • Lack of Specificity: Covert narcissists often offer vague apologies without acknowledging the specific harm they caused.
  • Conditional Apologies: They may only apologize if it serves their interests or if they can gain something from it.
  • Repetition of Apology Games: Covert narcissists tend to repeat the cycle of hurtful behavior, apologies, and more hurtful behavior, never truly learning from their mistakes.
  • Emphasis on Their Own Feelings: Their apologies may focus more on their own discomfort or distress rather than the pain they inflicted on the victim.


A covert narcissist apologizes for canceling plans with a friend by saying, “I feel awful about this; it’s ruining my day,” without acknowledging how the cancellation affected their friend.

Motivations Behind the Covert Narcissist Apology

Understanding the covert narcissist apology requires insight into the motivations that drive these individuals to offer such apologies. While the surface may suggest remorse, there are deeper layers to consider. In this section, we’ll delve into the three primary motivations behind the covert narcissist apology: maintaining control and power, avoiding consequences, and protecting their image.

Maintaining Control and Power

Covert narcissists are driven by an insatiable need for control and power over others. Apologizing can be a strategic move in their arsenal, allowing them to maintain influence and manipulate situations to their advantage.


Imagine a covert narcissist in a workplace who apologizes to a colleague they’ve undermined. By doing so, they regain the colleague’s trust, positioning themselves to manipulate future projects and situations to their benefit.

Avoiding Consequences

One of the key motivations for covert narcissist apologies is to avoid facing the consequences of their actions. These individuals are adept at evading responsibility, and offering an apology can be a tactic to deflect blame and minimize the repercussions of their behavior.


A covert narcissist may apologize to a romantic partner after cheating, hoping that the apology will be enough to avoid a breakup or any further questioning of their fidelity.

Protecting Their Image

Covert narcissists are highly image-conscious and fear any threat to their perceived superiority and virtue. Apologizing can be a way to safeguard their image and prevent others from seeing their flaws or questionable actions.


A covert narcissist who has made an insensitive comment in a social gathering may offer a public apology, not out of genuine remorse, but to maintain

their reputation as a kind and considerate person in the eyes of others.

Understanding these motivations sheds light on the calculated nature of covert narcissist apologies. They are not genuine expressions of remorse but rather strategic moves to serve the narcissist’s interests. In the next section, we’ll explore the profound impact that these apologies have on the recipients, often leaving emotional scars that run deep.

Impact on Victims of The Covert Narcissist Apology

The covert narcissist apology is a double-edged sword, leaving lasting scars on the recipients while simultaneously serving the narcissist’s agenda. In this section, we’ll delve into the emotional toll that these apologies take on the victims, the prolonged confusion and gaslighting they often endure, and the vicious cycle of apology and repeated harmful behavior.

Emotional Toll on the Recipient

Receiving a covert narcissist apology can be emotionally draining and confusing. Victims may initially feel relieved that the narcissist seems to acknowledge their wrongdoing, but this relief is often short-lived. The emotional toll includes:

  • False Hope: Victims may briefly believe that the narcissist is capable of change, only to be disappointed when the behavior repeats.
  • Manipulation of Emotions: Covert narcissists may use apologies to manipulate the recipient’s emotions, keeping them entangled in the relationship or situation.
  • Frustration and Helplessness: Repeated apologies without genuine change can lead to frustration and a sense of helplessness in the victim.


A partner in a relationship with a covert narcissist may feel hopeful when the narcissist apologizes for neglecting them but eventually realizes that the neglect continues, leaving them feeling emotionally drained and confused.

Prolonged Confusion and Gaslighting

Covert narcissists excel at gaslighting, which involves manipulating someone into doubting their own reality. Apologies play a significant role in this manipulation, as they can make the victim question whether they are being too harsh or misinterpreting the narcissist’s intentions.

  • Self-Doubt: Victims may start questioning their own judgment, wondering if they are overreacting or being too sensitive.
  • Isolation: Covert narcissists may use apologies to create a sense of isolation in the victim, making them believe that no one else would understand or support them.
  • Normalization of Harmful Behavior: Repeated apologies for the same behavior can normalize it in the victim’s mind, making them more likely to accept mistreatment.


A friend of a covert narcissist who consistently apologizes for canceling plans may start to question whether they are being unreasonable for expecting reliability in the friendship.

The Cycle of Apology and Repeated Behavior

Perhaps one of the most insidious aspects of covert narcissist apologies is the cycle they perpetuate. This cycle typically involves:

  • Harmful Behavior: The covert narcissist engages in behavior that hurts others.
  • Apology: They offer a seemingly heartfelt apology.
  • Temporary Reprieve: The victim temporarily forgives the narcissist and hopes for change.
  • Repeat: The cycle repeats, with the narcissist reverting to their harmful behavior.


An employee with a covert narcissistic boss may experience a pattern where the boss apologizes for their abrasive management style, but the behavior continues, causing ongoing stress and frustration.

Understanding the impact of the covert narcissist apology is crucial for victims to break free from the cycle of manipulation and emotional turmoil. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to recognize these apologies and respond effectively to protect oneself from further harm.

Recognizing and Responding to Covert Narcissist Apologies

Recognizing a covert narcissist apology and responding effectively is a critical step in protecting yourself from continued manipulation and emotional harm. In this section, we’ll explore strategies for identifying patterns of behavior, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help when necessary.

Identifying Patterns of Behavior

One of the key steps in dealing with covert narcissist apologies is to identify the recurring patterns in the narcissist’s behavior. This involves:

  • Documenting Incidents: Keep a record of harmful incidents and the subsequent apologies to identify patterns.
  • Noting Red Flags: Pay attention to the common red flags mentioned earlier, such as vague apologies and blame-shifting.
  • Trust Your Instincts: Trust your intuition if something doesn’t feel right in the apology or the narcissist’s behavior.


A friend who keeps canceling plans with flimsy excuses and offering vague apologies may demonstrate a pattern of unreliable behavior.

Setting Boundaries and Self-Care

Protecting yourself from the emotional toll of covert narcissist apologies requires setting and maintaining boundaries. Here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Establish Clear Boundaries: Define your limits and communicate them assertively to the narcissist.
  • Enforce Consequences: Make it clear that repeated harmful behavior will have consequences, and follow through if necessary.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to maintain your emotional well-being, as dealing with a covert narcissist can be draining.


In a romantic relationship, if a partner offers apologies for hurtful comments but continues making them, you can establish a boundary by saying, “I won’t tolerate hurtful comments, and if they continue, I will reconsider our relationship.”

Seeking Professional Help

Dealing with a covert narcissist can be emotionally taxing, and in some cases, seeking professional help may be necessary. Therapists and counselors can provide guidance on:

  • Understanding the Dynamics: Professionals can help you understand the dynamics of the relationship and the narcissist’s behavior.
  • Developing Coping Strategies: Therapists can assist you in developing effective coping strategies to deal with manipulation and emotional turmoil.
  • Exploring Options: They can help you explore whether it’s in your best interest to maintain the relationship or consider alternatives.


If you’re in a family with a covert narcissistic parent and the emotional toll is overwhelming, a therapist can help you navigate the complexities of the relationship and explore ways to protect your mental and emotional well-being.

Recognizing and responding to covert narcissist apologies empowers you to regain control over your emotional state and protect yourself from ongoing manipulation.

Closing Thoughts

Decoding the covert narcissist apology is a journey through the intricate world of manipulation and insincerity. It’s a crucial skill for protecting yourself from the emotional toll of these toxic relationships. Remember that while covert narcissists may offer apologies, their primary motivations often revolve around maintaining control, avoiding consequences, and safeguarding their image.

Empower yourself by recognizing the patterns, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care. In cases where the emotional turmoil becomes overwhelming, seeking professional help is a viable option. By understanding the covert narcissist apology and taking proactive steps, you can break free from the cycle of manipulation and regain control over your emotional well-being.

Additional Reading