Tiger Woods’s “Apology” Light on Contrition

Tiger Woods’s 13-minute nationally televised apology this morning, coming some 85 days since slamming his black Cadillac SUV into a front lawn tree, was a generally well crafted message aimed at managing the damage to his career created by the admission of his numerous extra marital affairs. Although late is better than never, an apology immediately following the November 27 incident would have indicated a sense of true contrition rather than what many will consider a veiled media ploy.

But Tiger’s statement today was little more than a mea culpa. In essence, the theme was – it’s my fault and I’m sorry.

  • “I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in.”
  • “For all that I have done, I am so sorry.”
  • “I want to say to them that I am truly sorry.”

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to hear about how sorry he is. “Sorry” is meaningless, frivolous and trite. I wanted a world class-apology. After all, this is a world-class guy, we should expect no less.

A world-class apology must contain The Four A’s:

  • Admission – guilt, mistake, error in judgment
  • Apology – humbly and sincerely describe the painful regret you feel for committing the offense
  • Action – the steps you are going to take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again
  • Ask – for forgiveness

Tiger delivered on three of the A’s, but fell short on the apology. To be fair, he did apologize once when speaking of the parents who pointed to him as a role model for their kids. (“I owe all those families a special apology.”) But for an apology to have impact, it must use the word “apology” not just once, but many times. Think about how much stronger his message would have been if he had simply added two words I apologize:

“I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans.” I apologize. “For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.” For each one of you, I apologize.

Moreover, Tiger’s statement would have had greater impact had the delivery been less scripted manner. A world-class apology requires painful, gut wrenching emotion. Tiger barely scratched the surface in this category.

When he comes out of therapy at some point down the road, Tiger will have another chance at a world-class apology. Let’s hope he takes it …and gets it right.

Click here for the video and transcript of Tiger Woods’s statement.

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