Tiger Woods' Apology: What We Can Learn

Whether or not you think Tiger Woods' televised apology on Feb. 19 was sincere, went far enough or didn't, began his road to redemption or was merely a self-serving move to salvage his battered brand, he at least did a few things right in his mea culpa, according to a top etiquette expert.

"His apology was really credible. He did an excellent job," says Peter Post, author of several etiquette books, including Essential Manners for Men, as well as Playing Through: A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf, which advises golfers on proper behavior -- on the links, that is.

When it comes to apologizing, we could all learn a few things from Woods, Post says. The first is to take responsibility for the bad action, as Woods did repeatedly throughout his speech. Deny the action or imply that someone or something else made you do it and the entire apology falls apart, Post adds.

The second part of a good apology is to explain how you are going to remedy the situation, says Post, a great-grandson of famed etiquette maven Emily Post and a director of the institute that bears her name. Woods explained that he had been to therapy and would return, adding that he was looking to find his way back to the tenets of Buddhism which, he said, "teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint." Others seeking to apologize should also lay out how they plan to fix the hurt they caused, Post says.

The third prong of a proper apology may be the hardest to get across, and that is sincerity. Ultimately, Woods' sincerity will be judged on whether he follows through on what he said. "He's got to go out and act on this," Post says.

You, however, can establish a sense of sincerity by looking the person in the eye and keeping a positive, open body posture, not arms crossed, Post advises.

Where and how you apologize also goes a long way toward easing the sting. Face-to-face apologies are best because the person whose forgiveness you seek can judge not just your words, but also your tone and your body language.

And while Woods' wife Elin Nordegren must decide if his private -- and now public -- apology is enough for her, his sentiments to the public are likely enough for most people to forgive him.

"We love it when our public figures apologize," Post says. "It allows us to love them again and they can go on to be successful in the future." 

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