Paula Deen, the celebrity chef and cooking show host, continues to have problems because her attempts at apologizing for making racial slurs are really not apologies – they are explanations, denials, and justifications. This is evident in her recent interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show.
Apologies are closure conversations in which one admits making a mistake or engaging in a wrongdoing, accepts complete responsibility for it (e.g., “I did this, and it was wrong/a mistake”), acknowledges the impact of the mistake on others, asks for forgiveness, and promises a change in future behavior.
Paula Deen has mistakenly been using understanding conversations in which she is explaining how she was brought up, her distress over how young people talk to each other, that she is not a racist, and so on. In other words, she is trying to get people to understand that she is not a “bad person” and that it is all really a misunderstanding. Understanding conversations are not closure conversations. Apologies stand on their own and do not need to be explained.
Had Paula used a closure conversation and given an authentic apology, rather than using an understanding conversation to try an explain herself, it is very likely she would be having far less difficulty. Don’t make the same mistake Paula did. When you apologize, apologize and don’t try to explain or justify while making the apology.