Time is of the essence when you owe someone an apology in the Internet age. As we all know, Tiger Woods certainly didn’t rush to retract. By waiting 80 days to speak publicly, many people are convinced that he’s arrogant and that he doesn’t care.
So how did Tiger do once he finally stepped up to the tee to begin to make amends? Was it a good recovery shot? He handled some parts of the apology well, and others were lacking.
Bottom line: the content was strong; his delivery was weak.
First, why the content was strong:
- He didn’t sidestep. He focused on the hot buttons: he cheated, he alone is to blame, he’s sorry for what he’s done, and he’s taking steps to ensure that it never happens again.
- He focused on the people he’d hurt. He acknowledged that people had good reason to be critical of him. His target audiences for the apology were his wife and immediate family, his business partners and his fans. He was specific on how he’d let them down.
- He delivered a clear takeaway for the TV audience. “I’m so sorry for what I’ve done” came through loud and clear.
- He stated the solution. He shared exactly what he’s doing to try to make things right – that he’s been in rehab for the past 45 days and that he’s returning there to keep working on his issues. He also pointed that he’s returned to his faith after drifting away. He said that he’s working to ensure that he never repeats the mistakes that he’s made.
On the flip side, how did Tiger’s delivery hurt his ability to convince people of his sincerity?
- He appeared to speak from the head, not the heart. He read out loud from a prepared script. Many people are slamming him for this today. I am not among them. Why? Tiger is not a dynamic personality – never has been, and probably never will be. He needed to stick to his comfort zone of being prepared and methodical. It was crafted by a smart speechwriter – ad libbing was a risk that he wasn’t willing to take.
- He should have memorized the open and spoken it directly to the audience. When you’re stiff in your opening, it gives the impression that you’re insincere. He would’ve been better served by frontloading a more heartfelt opening. I do give him credit for facing the camera lens directly when he delivered his “I’m sorry” messages and other issues where he showed true emotion about his wife and family, though he was equally adamant about not being a steroid cheater.
Perhaps the most remarkable statement was his admission of being a self-absorbed narcissist. “I never thought about who I was hurting. I thought only about myself. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” said Tiger.
I believe rehab is teaching Tiger that the grandiose self-importance, sense of entitlement, and impulsiveness of narcissism has caused chaos and pain for everyone around him. Narcissists are so caught up in their own worlds and meeting their own impulsive needs, that the needs of others are simply not on their radar screens. Today’s admission of being self-absorbed, more than anything else he said, is what can change Tiger’s world.
To me, this is the communication lesson: Tiger is a living, breathing example the danger of over-communicating with ourselves, and under-communicating with the others in our lives. It’s critical to connect with others by listening for their needs and values. At the end of his prepared speech, Tiger said he’s now relying on others to help him change and become “a better man.” Good for him. If Tiger can conquer his narcissism, it will be a true story of redemption beyond the golf course. Which gives hope for everyone out there who’s suffered with a narcissist in their life.