Body Language Whilr Walking With Some One Show Your Feeings Tiger Woods’s Apology – Are You a Believer?

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Tiger Woods’s Apology – Are You a Believer?

Tiger Woods’ press conference was truly an “apology heard around the world.” But let’s see how poor use of non-verbal communication caused this high-flying public relations appearance to go down in flames.

Apparently I’m not the only one who has been let down by the Tiger Woods lately. The day after Woods spoke to an international audience of millions, the Dalai Lama was asked his opinion on Woods’ dilemma. He replied that Tiger’s Buddhist faith would help him find the discipline he needed to avoid further adulterous affairs. Then the Tibetan leader told the Associated Press that he had actually never heard of Tiger Woods before that day.

After watching Woods’ performance, we can rightfully feel like we don’t know him either. However solidly written and finely calibrated mea culpa was, it was doomed to failure, due to the misuse of two key nonverbal components of crisis communication. I discuss both below.

The visual environment

What sincere confession does a manuscript require to express it? No. If, as many have said, the eyes are the window to the soul, then the voice is a direct channel to the heart. Along with the sound of truth, we believe a person who seems sincere when they express the depth of their feelings. What we show visually – including body language – is critical here. If we have to read a script to tell someone we’re sorry, our performance becomes a completely different kind of sorry spectacle.

Visual and vocal cues constitute the two streams of nonverbal communication to which audiences respond in ways that transcend language. Vocal does not mean “verbal” in the sense of content. It refers to how something is expressed: the quality of the voice, and all the subtle cues that reveal honesty or the lack of it.

For oral communication to be authoritative, vocal expression and visual input must work in synergy: the sum is greater than the parts. For example, if we want to express remorse and self-examination, we can only do so by looking our listeners in the eye and revealing our feelings through our voice and facial expressions. Instead, Tiger Woods offered his listeners a scripted, flat vocal delivery and no facial involvement at all. In the theater, this is known as “calling in your performance.” And it always results in a wrong number.

Vocal expressiveness

Tiger Woods — or his handlers — attempted an impossible oratorical task: aiming for spontaneity while being premeditated. Rarely will a script sound like anything but the opposite of organic conversations—which is why most telemarketing sounds contrived, stiff, and controlling. And no wonder: medical imaging tests revealed it different parts of the brain are involved in reading and speaking.

When a speaker works from a script, he or she sets up the most boring scenario imaginable: a person reading in the presence of others. Unless those listeners are two- or three-year-olds eager for a bedtime story, the result is an audience that remains cold and unengaged.

Given his reading assignment, Mr. Woods’ cadences, as we would expect, heavy and flat. Few speakers can work from a script while achieving a natural flow and rhythm. Instead, we get phrases plucked from the page and delivered individually, without the full sense of the idea or emotion the phrases add up to. After all, as a speaker, our own eyes can only grasp so much of a sentence. And that’s exactly what the audience gets: a piece of rope strung with bits, rather than intelligent discourse that hangs together like a string of pearls and shines.

Only twice in a long 14 minutes did this speaker’s voice come alive: when Tiger discussed the stories of domestic violence that occurred on Thanksgiving night or otherwise, and his anger at the media for stalking his family. In these passages (what else can we call them?), his voice awakened. The language and the delivery flowed. Now he told a story in which he clearly believed, and the story seemed to reach our hearts and elicit our sympathy.

Guts? — Some, but not enough

Does appearing in front of millions to discuss one’s personal shortcomings—to truly bare one’s soul—seem like a brave act? It would indeed be if this is what we saw at 11:00 on February 19th. It wasn’t.

With a blue TV studio or political-style curtain behind him, Mr. Woods stood at a cathedral and gave a lecture. Much worse, he didn’t answer any questions, and the audience was a painfully pretty select one of family members, employees and friends. As the camera left Tiger and focused on his audience, we saw what appeared to be a congregation of mannequins, stout but lifeless in the face of this overwritten sermon.

How it can be done

Mr. Woods, if I may, I would like to make a few suggestions as to how you could have reached our hearts and gained our sympathy and confidence for the future. Imagine this:

You walk into a room where a chair is placed in front of a small group of friends, supporters, colleagues and members of the press. You wear a lapel microphone. You greet your audience gloomily but with warmth, sit on the chair and start speaking. And that’s what you’re doing for the next 14 minutes: you tell us how you let down the people who cared about you, and how you are now trying to turn your life around.

No political background.

No desk.

No manuscript. Not even any notes.

Then you take questions from the media, and you answer those questions straight and honest, as painful as it may be for you. Now you are a person who speaks from the heart, and you sound like it. We listen. And if you do it honestly, we believe you.

Then, maybe, we can believe in you again

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