You’ve probably heard the familiar saying, “Timing is everything.” When I hear that I joke with people and tell them, “That’s true unless you’re in real estate. Then it’s location, location, location.” As timing would have it, perhaps the most famous person alive gave the apology heard around the world last week. After months of speculation Tiger Woods finally addressed the public concerning his issues with infidelity. What’s this have to do with timing? It just so happens to coincide with the next bit of Dale Carnegie advice I was going to share – If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
I wrote about the Tiger Woods’ situation in December, approaching it from the context of character. I tried to drive home that we can’t do anything about Tiger and all our water cooler talk is worthless. It turns out that all the speculation about Elin and his car accident were wrong if you believe Tiger’s apology. I’m going to take him at face value because part of the rehab process is coming clean with the truth and making amends. Assuming his account of that night is the truth then the media outlets and many people wasted a lot of time on that issue. The point of my post was simply this; we can use Tiger’s situation to reflect on ourselves and try to become better people.
The point of this week’s post is to get all of us to reflect on ourselves when we make a mistake. Lots of people think Tiger waited too long to apologize and that his words were not his own but those of a PR firm. That may be true or it may not. I don’t have a PR firm representing me and I bet you don’t either, so we don’t have to worry about that getting in the way of our credibility when we choose to apologize.
When we do make a mistake the quicker we own up to it the less time there is for speculation by others. Once people start down that path they begin to convince themselves they’re right. In Tiger’s case, no matter what he or Elin says about Thanksgiving night, many people are so firmly entrenched in what they believe happened that they might never believe anything different.
So how does this apply to you and I and what we can learn from all this? If we can prevent that speculation from taking root when we make mistakes then wouldn’t it be the smart thing to do? Here are a few examples of people who should have done just that. Not too long ago Alex Rodriguez came clean about steroids. The problem was, A-Rod lied to Katie Couric about it on national television when asked a few years earlier. The late admission was seen as a way to manage his career rather than a genuine apology for something he knew was wrong. Had he been truthful with her I think he would have been revered because he would have been the first baseball player to come forth without having the pressure of an investigation or congressional hearings.
Mark McGwire is in the same boat. Nobody is buying his apology because he lied to Congress about his steroid use. Had he admitted the truth at that time I think public opinion would be much better right now. As it is, most people see his apology as just the necessary step to get back into the game of baseball and possibly the hall of fame one day.
The American public is forgiving when people come clean about mistakes and back it up by living a changed life. I think on an individual level people are very much the same. When I’ve made mistakes and took steps to own up to them I’ve found people willing to extend grace to me. I think of the time when I was a jerk on the road driving in to work one morning. For quite some time I refused to let someone over as we approached the exit. I could have tapped the brakes, been a nice guy and let the driver over but I chose not to and eventually the driver got behind me. It turned out the person I was a jerk to happened to be a coworker who saw me pull into the parking lot. I knew he knew it was me on the highway so I made the choice to apologize. I got a very nice email from him saying we all make mistakes but he knew I was the kind of person who would own up to it. I think we’re better friends today than we were before the incident.
So here’s the bottom line. Don’t waste your time speculating on all the aspects of Tiger’s apology, his sincerity, when he’ll play again, if he and Elin will stay together, etc., because none of that will make you a better individual. Learn from his situation and use it to grow as a person. Next time you make a mistake own up to it quickly. Like anything, if you start with the small stuff it will make it easier when the bigger stuff comes around because you’ll have built character. Make that choice and you’ll become a person of authority and influence because you’ll have credibility.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”