Tiger Wood’s recently addressed the world to apologize for his marital infidelity. If you watched the apology, you could tell that it was not easy for him. He was clearly ill at ease, unsure of himself, nervous, and at times, upset. For someone who values his privacy, this was difficult.
In terms of The Four Conversations, Tiger’s address was a closure conversation. The primary purpose of closure conversations is to create endings by completing something from the past. It could be to complete an outstanding promise, it could be to report the status of a project, it could be to acknowledging that you received something that was sent to you, or it could be to own up to something you did, as in Tiger’s case. Closure conversations, when done completely can be very powerful because they make it possible to “move on”. When they are done poorly, however, they only add to the mess they are trying to address.
Closure conversations involve 4-A’s, though not all four are used in every conversation: acknowledge the facts, appreciate the people, apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings, and amend broken agreements. How did Tiger do on each of these?
Acknowledge the facts, say what’s so. Tiger clearly acknowledged that he had been unfaithful, that he had cheated. Although we already knew this, this was the first time Tiger acknowledged the facts, the first time he “came clean”. What he did not do, however, was acknowledge the extent or degree of his cheating. How many women had he cheated with? Were the reports in the press exaggerated, or were they accurate? By not addressing these, he left questions that will haunt him in the future. He did not have to provide the sordid details, only acknowledge something about the extent of his affairs.
Appreciate the people. Tiger was clearly appreciative of and spoke well of his wife Elin and who she has been through all of this. He was also appreciative of the people who have sent him emails, letters, etc. in support. What could have made this even more powerful would have been had he appreciated the people who “blew the whistle” on him. By not doing so, we are left with the impression that had he not been caught, he would have continued doing what he was doing. If, as he says, he has no one to blame for the shame but himself, then the women who went public did him a service by giving him an opportunity to transform his life. Not pretty, but a service nevertheless. It would have been extraordinary for him to do this.
Apologize for mistakes and misunderstandings. This was the whole point of Tiger’s address, to apologize. He did a good job of saying what he did that was wrong, and what he felt contributed to doing it (“I had worked hard all my life and thought I deserved…”).
Amend broken agreements. Amending broken agreements begins with recognizing an agreement has been broken and reporting on its breakage to those involved. Tiger broke agreements with Elin his wife, his sponsors, friends, and fans. He betrayed their trust and confidence and owned up to having done so. He also tried to address some of the costs and consequences of breaking these agreements, but I don’t think he came even close to dealing with the true cost. He did, however, acknowledge that regaining people’s trust would take time and would involve a change in his future behavior. Finally, amending broken agreements requires committing (promising) to a new future. Tiger did that by saying he would continue therapy, that he would need help, and that he was promising to be a better person.
Was Tiger successful? He seemed to have done a good job in terms of having a complete closure conversation. It seems clear to me that just having the conversation completed things for Tiger and cleared some space for him to move forward, which is the intent of such conversations. Did he satisfy everyone? Probably not.