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Tiger Wood’s Apology Body Language

By Patti Wood

Tiger Woods got many things right. He expressed remorse. He took responsibility. However, he kept going beyond asking for forgiveness, and gave several little speeches within his speech. Stick to one purpose. Go with one sincere talking point.

His nonverbal behavior changed from fear and nervousness, emotions that could have won sympathy, to righteousness and suppressed anger. Your statements and your nonverbal communication need to be consistently apologetic. You do not get angry at the media and the public when you are requesting their grace. Nonverbal delivery can affect the PR outcome. If you read the transcript, you would find beautifully written gems such as "I want to say to each of you, simply and directly," "I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior." But though the text was, at times, beautifully scripted, his reliance on his notes and his wooden vocal delivery made it seem overly rehearsed. He read from his notes; then inauthentically, raised his head at the critical moment to make an "eye appeal." This, combined with coached gestures such as putting his hand over his heart, made him look a bit like a high school actor who had to stand in at the last minute for the starring role.

When I coach someone, I ask them to think about what they are feeling and make sure they show emotions that are appropriate. I also ask them to sense what would be normal emotions to feel in the circumstances, and what the audience would be looking for in a contrite person.

Tiger Woods was apologizing for being unfaithful. Yet the first time the golfer mentioned his wife and children his eyes were absolutely dead, his voice had no emotion, it was absolutely monotonic. He detached himself. In fact, he was more emotional when apologizing to his friends and coworkers than he was when referring to his family.

As a media coach, I would have suggested if he felt any love or tenderness in his relationship with his wife, that he show that with his body language and if he felt embarrassed or tense as he referred to his wife that that would be normal, acceptable and preferable to dead eyes and a cold monotone delivery. His apology to his friends showed more appropriate nervousness than did his apology to his wife.

One of the most heartfelt and honest statements of his apology was this: "I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply," followed by, "I worked hard my entire life and thought I deserved …." That's when we heard his true feelings about his behavior and reasoning. He felt very passionately about that. It's what we know many men must feel in their positions of power. Yet it sounded so horrible to us because he delivered this—of all statements—with such passion and conviction. It's a though he still believes that and may only regret that he was caught.