What Others Can Learn from an Abysmal Apology

It’s not surprising to hear Lance Armstrong is a rule breaker.  But in in his interview with Oprah, we learned he also breaks all the rules of making a public apology and could definitely benefit from some media coaching the next around.

I would argue Armstrong might have garnered some sympathy had he not made multiple egregious errors in his television confession.   Americans are able and even eager to forgive someone who makes a real apology.  We all make mistakes so we can relate to people who screw up and want to make things right.

Narrowing down Lance’s list of apology gaffes to just three is difficult.  But here are three that anyone who ever has to make a public apology can learn from:

1.  MAKE NO EXCUSES

I stopped counting the number of times Armstrong said, “I’m not making any excuses,” after talking about how every cyclist was juicing or how he was caught up in his own hype.  In fact, his “apology” was loaded with excuses, which only made him look worse (if that was possible).

If you want the public to hear your apology, you have to throw yourself on the sword and show sincere remorse.  Armstrong’s words and perhaps more importantly, his tone and body language gave every indication that his message was, “I’m sorry, but…”

2.  DON’T BE DEFENSIVE

If you’re going to apologize, be ready to take some public flogging without getting defensive.  Armstrong showed a lot of nerve and arrogance when he became indignant over the few things that people had said about him that weren’t true.

For instance in one sadly comical exchange with Oprah, Armstrong talked about a recent conversation he’d had with Betsy Andreu, one of his accusers whom he had ripped to shreds for years.

“I said, ‘Listen, I called you crazy. I called you a bitch, I called you all these things, but I never called you fat.’ Because she thought I said, ‘You were a fat crazy bitch’. And I said, ‘Betsy, I never said you were fat.'”

3.  DON’T PORTRAY YOURSELF AS A VICTIM

More than once during the interview with Oprah, Armstrong made a play for sympathy by portraying himself as a victim who had been suffered greater punishments for his misdeeds than others.

In one audacious moment, he said,  “I’ve lost all future income. You could look at that day and a half when people [sponsors] left. That was a $75m day. Gone. Gone. And probably never coming back.”

I’m pretty sure most people aren’t going to shed a tear for anyone who is whining about losing $75 million, especially since we know Lance is not going to be on the streets anytime soon.

It’s been said, “Be a good example or a horrible warning.”  Armstrong will now serve as a prime example of the latter for anyone getting ready to make a public apology.