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Does Tiger Woods' apology hold weight?

By Wayne Drash, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "If you have to take time to say 'sorry,' you're not being authentic," ethicist says
  • Tiger Woods' apology the latest "I'm sorry" in February
  • Society needs apologies, but "serial apologies ... never work," business ethics expert says

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Tiger Woods' comments Friday may become the most scrutinized apology in history, fodder for dinner tables and Internet chat rooms alike: Was he genuine? Was it a PR stunt? Can he do anything to restore people's faith in him?

The biggest knock on golf's biggest star is that it took him three months to utter any words publicly about his infidelity and then did so in a controlled environment. That's a no-no, according to apology etiquette.

"If you have to take time to say 'sorry,' you're not being authentic. We don't need extra time to rationalize whether we're sorry or not," said Glenn Llopis, the founder of the Center for Innovation & Humanity, a California-based think tank.

It seems everyone is apologizing for everything these days. In February alone, there has been a bevy of "I'm sorries," from a tearful John Mayer for his use of the n-word to Toyota's top boss for the automaker's repeated shortcomings.

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But do apologies still carry weight, or does the flood of mea culpas dilute their meaning?

Lauren Bloom, a business ethics expert and the author of "The Art of the Apology," says, "It's never too late to say 'I'm sorry.'

"But saying 'I'm sorry' in a tightly controlled environment," she says, "makes it look more and more like an exercise in 'let's check the box and do what my PR people tell me to do.' "

Woods delivered his apology in front of a small hand-picked crowd that was not allowed to ask questions. "I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated," he said. "I am the only person to blame."

Read full story about Woods' apology

How would Bloom rate Woods' authenticity?

"I thought he was very authentic," she said, adding with a laugh, "He was most authentic when he was attacking the media."

"But I think he was very sincere. I think he had a very tough thing to say today, and he sucked it up and did well."

Bloom has six essentials to an effective apology: Say sorry sincerely; take responsibility; make amends; express appreciation to fans and friends who have stuck by you; listen to the people affected by your actions; and do better next time.

"He did pretty well. He checked all the boxes," she said. "We now have got to see changed behavior. ... I hope he follows through on it. I think America would love to welcome him back."

Watch Tiger Woods' apology

Bloom says the importance of an apology shouldn't be overlooked. There was a time, she says, when people viewed apologizing for your actions as weak. That perception has since changed, because Americans now recognize that people are inherently flawed.

"Folks are starting to wake up to that," she said. "Most of the time, people are ready to forgive and forget."

Who has given an effective public apology? She says actor Hugh Grant, who hit the talk show circuit immediately after his infamous encounter with a prostitute in 1995.

A bad apology? John Edwards, according to Bloom.

"Serial apologies," she says, "they never work."

In his apology, Woods said that he had undergone 45 days of in-patient treatment and that he would return to therapy Saturday.

"I have a long way to go, but I've taken my first steps," Woods said. "I need to regain my balance and be centered."

Therapist Gregory Jantz, who has treated sex addiction for 25 years, says relapse is common. His Seattle-based facility has seen only a 5 percent "full recovery" of addicts.

"This is not a go-into-rehab-and-be-finished type of addiction."

An apology is important and a good step in the recovery process, Jantz says, but from a therapist's standpoint, it was important to hear him say: "Not only did I goof up, but I need ongoing help."

As for Llopis, he says Woods might've won some people over. "He did a fairly good attempt to capture the heart, but is he forgiven for what he's done? No," he said.

"There's nothing he can say in my book," he added, "that would make me view him as authentic and genuine and human again."

 
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