This is part 3 of a series on how to deliver a proper apology.
A few weeks ago, CNN This Morning co-anchor Don Lemon made comments about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, saying the former U.N. Ambassador was “past her prime” due to her age.
Haley responded with a Tweet, saying “BTW it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.” Haley was advocating for a competency test that would ensure politicians are able to do their job – the exact thing Lemon claimed Haley was “past her prime” to be able to do.
As we’ve seen by countless women who achieved success later in life, such as J.K. Rowling, Ina Garten and Vera Wang, age doesn’t constrain success – hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck determine that.
Earlier in these series we discussed crafting and delivering an effective apology. Since this incident unfolded in real time and on national television, let’s dive into some of the nuances of the situation and where Lemon’s response stumbled.
Reaction to Lemon’s sour statements were almost immediate, with the general public reprimanding the network host for his discriminatory, sexist, and upsetting remarks. But the first reactions were from Lemon’s co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, who met the remarks with pushback and challenged the crass judgment.
In an email to employees, CNN network CEO Chris Licht noted that Lemon will undergo “formal training” as a result of his remarks.
Lemon issued a statement – if you can call it that – the same day as his transgression saying he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” comments, which were widely condemned. This is in reference to a Tweet Lemon posted on February 16, 2023. This doesn’t appear to be much of an apology; as we mentioned in the previous blogs about apologizing, you should NOT make excuses or try to explain away the wrongdoing. Even using the term ‘inartful,’ defined as lacking craft or awkwardly expressed but not necessarily untrue, lacks a feeling of guilt or accountability.
The next morning, a more contrite Lemon apologized for 6 minutes on a conference call with CNN staff. According to the New York Times, Lemon even said “I’m sorry.” While this was a step in the right direction, what about a better public apology – to Nikki Haley or the countless other woman Lemon offended with his remarks.
Since Lemon is a TV personality, this would have been a great opportunity to make use of a public apology delivered through video, recorded or live.
Unlike written apologies, the added factor of body language and gestures greatly impacts message transmission when an apology is delivered through a video or in person.
Below are a few quick tips on things to remember, and things to avoid when this is the chosen method of communication:
Body language to avoid:
- Deception: rocking the body back and forth, cocking the head to the side, or shuffling the feet.
- Lying: complexion turns white, excessive sweating, dry mouth, excessive blinking, licking or biting lips, darting eyes, or staring.
- Omission: rolling the lips back to where they disappear, pursing the lips.
- Using words such as, ‘uh,’ ‘like’ and ‘um’: filler words can indicate deception; people use these words to buy time to figure out what they’re going to say next.
Positive body language:
- A gaze focused on one person at a time. It makes the audience feel like they are being spoken to directly.
- Planted feet. Moving around signals unsettledness and uncertainty.
- Arms placed comfortably at your side. Clasping of hands, putting them in pockets, or crossing of arms can come across as overly formal, indifferent, or defensive.
- A relaxed, open posture. Stiffness can indicate a barrier to communication, whereas open palms can reflect sincerity and empathy.
Use Lemon’s experience as a cautionary tale. And if you do have to issue a public apology, use the tips we have given throughout this series to inform your strategy and create an effective and sincere apology. For more insights on messaging strategy, visit https://xenophonstrategies.com/services/strategic-messaging/.