Did Tiger Woods Ace the Public Apology?

"But here recently over this last year it developed into something much more than that. And as a consequence, I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife."

Whether the first "her" Sanford hurt is his wife or his mistress remained unclear. In addition, while he did say he was "unfaithful" at least once in the 1,700-word speech, Sanford also insinuated things were out of his control.

Not exactly similar to what Stanton Peel, a social psychologist and attorney based In New Jersey, would call a "real-life" apology.

But unlike Sanford, Woods refused to answer any questions about his affair. In addition, his apology was attended by a small group of what his management team called "friends, colleagues and close associates."

"He might be criticized for controlling the whole situation," said Engel.

If Woods' wife, Elin Nordigren, was watching, Engel guessed the golfer's words could have been helpful.

"One of the major benefits of an apology for the victim is it's a validation," said Engel. "It's a validation that harm was caused. Victims report that ... what they want most from the offender is the validation that, in fact, it even happened."

Following that template, Engel said Woods' apology made no bones about what went wrong.

"I never thought about who I was hurting," said Woods. "Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. ... I was wrong. I was foolish. I don't get to play by different rules."

Excusing Away the Apology?

Engel liked much of what she heard.

"I have to say that his [Woods'] apology is pretty good because one of the things that's really important is that you never blame anyone else or even insinuate that anyone else to blame," said Engel.

In contrast, Chris Brown's public apology seemed to waver on the point of responsibility. On one hand, he said, "Ever since the incident, I wanted to publicly express my deepest regret and accept full responsibility." On the other hand, he said, "As many of you know, I grew up in a home where there was domestic violence, and I saw firsthand what uncontrolled rage can do. I have sought and I am continuing to seek help to ensure that what occurred in February can never happen again."

Engel wasn't much of a fan of that approach.

"A lot of people say that I am sorry, but then they go on to excuse it," said Engel. "If you're not taking full responsibility without making excuses, then you shouldn't even bother. That really weakens the apology, and it actually becomes insulting to the person who was offended."

Woods' apology also was unique in the delay. While many politicians and celebrities apologize within the week after news of their wrongdoing surfaces, Woods waited more than three months.

Lynne Tirrell, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who has written several articles on apologies, said timing may show genuine remorse.

"If an apology is going to have an effect -- which in some cases it's not going to do much -- delay is not always a bad thing, and sometimes delay indicates the graveness of the situation," said Tirrell.

Sometimes, Tirrell said, a quick apology may not be seen as meaningful.

Engel agreed that waiting to apologize is not always the worst tactic.

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