An article in today’s New York Times details President Barack Obama’s retraction for a comment he made regarding the arrest of an African-American Harvard professor by a white law enforcement officer. He said that the police had “acted stupidly” in the arrest. What’s more, the comments came in a press conference on his health care package.
President Obama said he regrets his words, but my issue is how he did it. He said he could “have calibrated my words more carefully.” To continue, the President said, “To the extent that my choice of words didn’t illuminate, but rather contributed to more media, I think that was unfortunate.”
Memo to the President – Just say “I’m sorry.”
Ditch the words “illuminate,” “calibrated,” and unfortunate.” You messed up, just fess up. Nothing is worse than hearing a bunch of $100 words when a $3 word will do just fine. If you are trying to be influential as a communicator, then be straightforward, sincere, and pithy.
By the way, from a leadership standpoint this is weak. Have you ever had a boss who danced around saying “I’m sorry” and basically made it out that it was someone else’s fault anyway? That’s exactly what this sounds like from my point of view.
For a guy who has been widely proclaimed as an excellent communicator, this adds to a series of extemporaneous boo-boos from President Obama (note boo-boo is a $1 word).
When you next find yourself in a position to have to apologize for something (and we all will), whether it’s professionally or personally, make the right choice and pull out those two simple words I noted above – “I’m sorry.” Pithy, sincere, and humble.
Better luck next time Mr. President.