When the apology falls flat–just ask Paula

Just some of the countless lessons from Paula Deen’s free fall from grace:

  • Do some soul-searching before you apologize, so that you apologize for the right things. Deen’s extensive “apology tour”—on a clumsy and maudlin video released on YouTube (since taken down but widely dissected and parodied) and then another YouTube apology video after she stood up Lauer on the Today Show, and finally the rescheduled  Today Show interview that produced its own dreadful apology—fell flat because Deen didn’t know what she was apologizing for. She asks folks out there to forgive her but comes across as confused and lacking any deeply felt contrition.
  • When asked if you ever used the “n” word (or some other heinous act), don’t respond: “Yes, of course.”  You need to show that you understand what you’ve done is wrong and vow to not repeat the action.  Saying some version of “everybody does it” as an excuse negates the rest of the apology. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Own up to it.
  • Things not to say in your apology: “I is what I is and I’m not changing.” (An unforgettable line from the Today Show interview.) Kind of un-does all that part about being sincerely sorry, don’t you think?
  • Know when to take a public hiatus. After providing one interview in which you sincerely express contrition after some long-soul searching (see above), you make it clear that you plan to drop out of sight for awhile. No more interviews. No more YouTube videos. But note: you can’t drop out of the public eye if what you were apologizing for is still happening, like a massive BP oil spill for example. Then you have to remain available until the end of the crisis.

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