How To Respond To A Manipulative Apology
Manipulation is when someone exercises their power over another person. Manipulators tend to attack the emotional and mental sides of another person in order to get what they want.
What they do is create an imbalance of power, taking advantage of the victim’s weaknesses for their own gain. This can happen in romantic relationships, friendships, or family relationships.
They can also happen in casual relationships, but they are most common in close relationships.
Manipulative Apologies: How to Spot an Emotionally Manipulative Apology
What is a manipulative apology? Intentional or not, there are signs that can determine whether someone is a manipulator or not. They will exercise certain tricks and behaviors in order to get what they want from other people.
Below are some of these behaviors that are commonly associated with those who manipulate others and sorry manipulation.
These are common tricks that manipulators will use to make others feel insecure and irrational. They do this by using the above tactics to get their ‘victims’ to feel swayed, or to persuade them to act in a certain way.
Manipulators have some other tactics that you can look out for. The main thing to remember is that their actions will always be an attempt to undermine your rational thinking. Some of these manipulative apology examples are:
- Knowing your weaknesses: The manipulator will know your weaknesses and will know how to exploit them in order to get what they want.
- Insecurities: They will also know all about your insecurities and use them against you. Sometimes they’ll do this discreetly, so you may not even notice.
- Making you dependent on them: They may get you to give up people or things that are important to you, slowly isolating you so that you become dependent on them.
- Exaggeration and Generalization: They’ll use vague accusations such as ‘no one cares about me’, making you feel sorry for them.
- Cruel Humor: They may sometimes do this in front of others, poking at your insecurities in order to make others laugh.
- Gaslighting: Gaslight apology is a very common behavior, where they will turn things around, making you question your reality. Often, this will happen when you confront the abuser.
- Over Apologizing Manipulation: The manipulator will exaggerate their apologies and over apologize which in itself is a red flag.
While there are many other behaviors and tactics to look out for, these are some common ones.
The words ‘I’m sorry’ carry a lot of meaning, and to be truly sorry means that you feel regret and sorrow for your wrongdoings and any hurt you have caused.
Apologizing means you are taking accountability for your actions, no matter what the consequences.
Unfortunately, not all apologies are genuine and those in unhealthy relationships are likely to say sorry to manipulate their partner, rather than to express genuine feelings of regret.
Some reasons a manipulator may say sorry are below:
- To make themselves feel better: They are unlikely to feel sorry in this situation, they just don’t like feeling guilty, so they are saying sorry to make themselves feel better.
- To end the dispute: They could be apologizing to end the conversation as they no longer care for it.
- Exercising control: Apologizing can also make them feel like they are in control again. By apologizing, they feel they are more likely to be able to get what they want from you after apologizing.
How To Respond To A Manipulative Apology
Before figuring out how to respond to an apology, it is important that you acknowledge it is a manipulative apology. If it falls within the categories mentioned above, then you know it is an apology manipulation or sorry manipulation.
Another way to determine whether it is, or not, is to think about their past behavior. Have they been manipulative in the past? Remember, an apology without change is just manipulation!
Will they be getting something out of this apology that benefits them? Once you have determined whether it is manipulative behavior, there are a few ways you can respond to an apology.
While it may be tempting to accept the apology and avoid conflict, this will only allow the toxic manipulation to continue.
Call out their manipulative apologies
A good first step is to acknowledge that you are aware they are being manipulative. Be respectful but firm in your language, and use ‘I’ statements to avoid being confrontational.
Be sure to explain that you don’t feel their apology is genuine. You can refer to past experiences with this person in order to explain your point of view.
While it is tempting to accept their apology, as you want to believe they are genuinely sorry, stating that you aren’t going to accept it this time, is a step in the right direction.
Let Them Know How It Makes You Feel
Once you’ve stated that you will not accept this apology, explain why. If they have done this before, apologized, and then repeated the same hurtful actions, explain how that made you feel.
Again, use respectful language and don’t place blame, as that can lead to a confrontation. Instead, you can try approaches like this:
- Acknowledge their feelings and perspective: “I know you’re stressed because you’ve got a lot going on, but I feel disappointed because…”
- Explain to them how this kind of behavior affects you and the relationship: “When you apologize without meaning it, you repeat the same actions, and it makes me feel…”
Explain What You Want From Them
One way that you can measure progress is by explaining what you want from them after this apology. You can outline some positive actions they can follow, that’ll make you believe they are truly sorry.
This person may not realize they aren’t being genuine, so if they have some sort of guideline, they can follow that if they are genuinely apologetic. Some people need a bit of guidance, and some model behavior to follow.
This is also one way that you can measure their progress. After outlining what you want from them, you can determine whether the actions that follow are in line with the ones you set out.
Dealing with someone who is manipulative is never easy, whether it is a friend, partner, or family member.
It is always best, to be honest, and open about how their behavior makes you feel, and never bow down to their manipulation, as that sets the tone for how they will treat you moving forward.
If you have tried being open with them and their manipulations continue, then it may be time to think about whether this person is serving a good purpose in your life.
While this is harder when it comes to family members, if their presence is only serving you negatively, it may be time to decide to limit your interactions with them as much as possible.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT (license:115130)
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: December 1, 2022