Frances Cole Jones
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Category Archives: How NOT to Wow
We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Regrets Only,” on invitations: it’s the fast-track way party planners of sought-after events let us know that since it’s likely we’re coming, there’s no need for further action unless, in fact, we aren’t.
Perhaps this is the reason I find Tiger Woods’ use of the phrase, “I regret those transgressions with all of my heart,” so soulless—it distances him from genuine remorse.
What would I recommend instead? To me, “I am deeply sorry for my transgressions, and regret them with all my heart,” would have read as far more heartfelt. For starters, the use of “my” rather than “these” takes ownership for what’s occurred. And, as stated, earlier—thanks to its frequent use in a social context– “regret” feels like a sanitized version of “sorry.”
For whatever reason, however, “I’m sorry,” seems to be off the table when it comes to apologies of this kind. As I noted at the time, not once during the course of his sixteen minute and thirty-four second apology did John Edwards utter those magic words. Instead, he “made a mistake he is responsible for,” and informed us, “It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, and it is inadequate to say to the people I love that I am sorry.”
I guess I’m unclear on when “I’m sorry,” became inadequate. Did anyone you know get a call about it?
(Apparently Mr. Spitzer did, for although he stated that he, “acted in a way that violates his obligations to his family,” he did not, in fact, say he was sorry.
Now I understand there are people out there who feel I’m being too nitpicky about this—that I should look at the intention behind the words of the apology, and I do. But the fact is I find the accountability inherent in “I’m sorry,” a far more powerful choice, and I want those of you seeking the biggest WOW Factor to make the most powerful choice in any and every situation—regrettable or (hopefully) otherwise.
I look forward to your thoughts.
This past weekend, some young chums of mine (10 and 7) took part in a lifeguarding clinic. One of the elements practiced was how to signal to a guard that you were in need of assistance. To do this, they were instructed to tread water, wave their arms over their heads, and yell, “Help!”
After this correct “form” had been demonstrated, the kids were asked,
“Who wants to be a victim?”
This was greeted by a chorus of, “Me, me me!”
The result? These self-appointed “victims” had a chance to be rescued by numerous hunky lifeguards, running toward them in true “Baywatch” style– hair blowing in the breeze, whistles blowing, lifesaving torpedoes at the ready….
It was easy to see the seduction of the choice.
I’m sure many of you know someone who has a similar response to situations in their life– someone who eagerly signs up to be saved; who wants nothing more than to cling to the torpedo, be dragged to safety– and perhaps even given mouth to mouth…
Because, let’s face it: victimhood is powerful.
That said, I maintain it does not wow.
And beyond the non-wowing of others, ultimately it doesn’t wow those who make the choice– because if you’re always being saved by someone else, you never have the chance to actually build self-esteem.
You never have the satisfaction of saving yourself.
Now, I am not saying that when you find yourself in over your head, it isn’t OK to ask for help.
I am also not saying that having a safety plan in place isn’t smart.
(In fact, I recommend both of these things– I’m an advice-asking, safety-first kind of girl.)
What I’m talking about is people who wave and holler before they’ve even braved the water.
Because, as those of you know who have had the good fortune to safely navigate the personal riptides of your life, there is enormous confidence to be gained from learning to navigate using your own wit and wisdom.
According to UCLA professor emeritus Albert Mehrabian, when evaluating public speaking people only remember 7% of the words you say; 38% of your impact comes from your tonal quality and 55% from what your body is doing while you are speaking.
As the author of “How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Presenting Your Ideas, Persuading Your Audience, and Perfecting Your Image,” the first thing I noticed was the disconnect between Mr. Spitzer’s overuse of the word[s] “apology/apologize,” and his lack of eye contact, rigid physicality, and flat delivery. Turn the sound on your YouTube down, and it’s unlikely you would guess you were looking at an apology.
Should you wish to parse his delivery further, I found it fascinating that although he didn’t stumble before saying, “I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family,” he did when he reached, “and that violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong.”
This was, to me, an interesting moment to choke…is it possible Mr. Spitzer wasn’t heart whole in his feeling of having violated his sense of right and wrong?
Finally, when Yale University studied the most influential words in the English language they informed us that “you” is that most influential word. Never once, however, did Governer Spitzer say, “I apologize to you.” We were, instead, “the public.”
Along with Travis Bickel, another New Yorker with a dubious grasp on reality, I must ask, “are you talkin’ to me” Eliot?
Let me know what you think.