“Yep, I did it.”
Anyone who has worked in a hospital emergency department will recognize stories that go something like this:
“I was cleaning out the fridge, and had just got up to doing the vegetable drawer - and I like to do all my housework naked as I enjoy the feeling of freedom - when I slipped and fell awkwardly and that’s how it came to be lodged…”
This is the extreme, even more childish version of the “Hey! Look over there!” strategy we looked at earlier in the week.
It’s one you tend to see when public figures have done something really naughty.
Like the famous excuse of US Senator Larry Craig, arrested for soliciting in an airport bathroom after putting his foot on the foot of the patron in the next stall. Craig, a married father of 3 with a history of hostility to gay rights, said:
“I simply have an unusually wide stance.”
So amid the recriminations over John Della Bosca’s resignation this week, he gets points for at least handling it in in a professional and adult fashion, with no ridiculous excuses.
For readers elsewhere, the 53 year old state government minister was exposed in that morning’s newspaper as having had an affair with a now-disgruntled 26 year old. He spoke in a calm tone, admitted he had made errors and took full responsibility for them. Watch the unedited press conference here, click on the ‘Della Bosca faces the music’ link.
For valuable tips on public apologies after making a public fool of yourself, Peter Lewis offers a very useful article here.
While most people would do these things instinctively, the same attitude of entitlement that makes people powerful and famous means they don’t do humility well. That mindset is the main reason they got into trouble in the first place.
Among his suggestions:
- Dress like you’re going to a funeral.
- Be more outraged at your action than anyone else in the room.
- Don’t say ‘you want to move on’ right then and there - allow some time for anger.
- Don’t say your opponent was just as bad.
- Apologise to your victim, not to your family.
- Apologise for what you did, not that what you did might have upset someone.
- Don’t take questions.
And whether you’re at the lectern, in the boardroom or anywhere else, whatever you do, don’t take an unusually wide stance.