There are times when those of us who speak on ethics find out paths crossing. When in NYC for a TV show I had the opportunity to meet another guest on the show – Lauren Bloom – a lovely talented speaker on The Art of the Apology and business ethics. Today she is my guest here on Straight Talk Radio. A link to her site is here: LaurenBloom.com
Likewise if you’d prefer listening to the show – here’s a link to the broadcast: Lauren Bloom on Straight Talk Radio
Tired of traditional talk? People pontificating about this or that? The left or the right? Sometimes the truth is just off lost in the noise. Having learned life lessons the hard way, Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency!
Nationally-known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns and your success. So tune in, turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.
Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.
CHUCK: And it is a great day today on Straight Talk Radio. I am super excited and it’s been a hectic day today. I was a guest on a show today and then we’re doing a show today so it’s kind of a twofer, sort to speak, and it’s been a lot of fun. Theirs is a certain excitement in the air as we move into thinking about some of the topics that we need to talk about today and, of course, if you look in the news, and it isn’t as if we don’t have plenty of things to have straight talk about.
I want to go backwards just a little bit to set up this show. Some time back, and I want to say probably now was maybe three, four years ago, could be five, but I got a call from a lady up in New York City who was connected with a show called Currents TV. I believe it was sponsored by the Catholic Diocese, if I remember correctly, and she said, “We’re putting together this segment on ethics and we think it would be interesting to have some ethics professionals around the country as guests. Would you be willing to participate?” And I said, “Sure!” and they said, “In addition to you, we’ve asked Lauren Bloom.” I was sitting there like, “Sweet!” I was so excited because it’s kind of funny in the world of speaking about ethics and talking about it, in which of course most people think that has to be incredibly boring, but we tend to find each other following each other and I was following Lauren’s career in that she speaks of ethics and even her website says: Practical Ethical Solutions. It way really kind of cool, because the first time we actually got to meet was there in New York. Lauren, I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed that video segment and what they produced afterward. That was a lot of fun.
LAUREN: Hi, Chuck. So did I, and yes, it was a real pleasure to meet you. I had also been following your career and was very delighted to meet you in person.
CHUCK: It’s kind of cool to have the opportunity to do that. One of the things that really struck me is if you’re in the world of speaking and communication and you’re talking about issues like ethics, one of the things I’m sure happens to you all the time is people say, “Oooh, you really must be busy because, Gosh, there’s a real need…”
LAUREN:[laughs] Not everybody says that and then everyone says, “Not that I need it, of course.”
CHUCK: There you go. “Not that I need it, of course.” I don’t know about you, I’ll be vulnerable here, but I sat back and I think to myself, “Okay, let’s get this. There must be this real need because people are so willing to act unethically and yeah, it isn’t the most common thing for people to really make an investment in acting ethically.” It appears that people seem to, how do I put this, they seem to believe it could happen to other people, “but it will never happen to me,” and yet the fact of the matter is any of us as human beings have the potential to make bad choices, unethical choices, and there will always be consequences.
LAUREN: Oh, absolutely. I’ve had a very similar experience. I find people are willing to invest a whole lot of money in learning how to sell better, to present themselves better, how to advance their careers and they don’t think about the pro-active work and education themselves about ethics so they stay out of trouble before it comes up.
CHUCK: That’s the thing; before it comes up is, well, let’s put it this way, I say every choice has a consequence. Consequence doesn’t always mean bad, by the way. Consequence means consequence, but the fact is if people were to take the time and energy to invest in making positive choices, probably your acclaimed book, Art of the Apology, might not be so necessary, and yet you’ve written the masterpiece on how to appropriately apologize. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Straight Talk Radio. I’m Chuck Gallagher and my guest today is Lauren Bloom. You have heard her, she and I have had some conversation here. Lauren is a very, very special person. If you want to find out more about Lauren, visit laurenmbloom.com and if you Google “Lauren Bloom”, that will be the first thing that pops up, but Lauren has written a masterful book entitled Art of the Apology: How, When, and Why to Give and Accept Apologies.
On this segment of Straight Talk Radio we’re going to spend a little bit of time talking about, well, you know, what happens if you screw up? And as opposed to it having to be the worst of circumstances that takes place, when is it appropriate to issue an apology? How to do it? When to do it? Why to do it? And perhaps when to accept it? So, Lauren, I am so thrilled to have you on the show. This is going to be fun.
LAUREN: Well, I’m thrilled to be here, Chuck, and really looking forward to this segment.
CHUCK: We have several segments we’ll be going through, but as we start this, I have to ask you the question: What motivated you to write the book? Tell me a little bit about the background. What’s the back story to this?
LAUREN: Sure. In an earlier segment of my career, I was a General Counsel to the Actuary of Possession in the U.S. and I did a lot of work with actuaries on their professional standard, their code of ethics and also helping individual actuaries, not representing them in court so much but helping them in situations where they’ve gotten themselves in trouble, made a mistake. I mean, they made my job very easy because I could count the dishonest actuaries I’ve met in my career on one hand and I don’t think I could get to five.
CHUCK: Oh, wow, you’re lucky.
LAUREN: I really was. They are lovely people and very ethical, but even they will occasionally make mistakes because these are the folks who handle the money for pension plans, for insurance companies, who do all the estimates and forecast how much money is going to be needed so people can retire or get their claims paid when they have an accident or someone dies. They handle huge amounts of money so if they make a mistake, it’s going to be enormous. What I found in working with them is that if they took the kind of traditional posture of saying, “All right. I’ve made a mistake. My clients are threatening to sue me for malpractice. I’m going to hunker down and argue,” it was going to cost them a fortune, whereas if they said, “All right. I’ve made a mistake. I am human, I acknowledge the mistake and I’m going to work with my client to apologize for it and make things better,” ultimately it was very much to the good. So I thought, “All right, if this works for actuaries, it’s going to work for other people in business,” so I sat down and wrote what I thought was going to be an article about apologies in the context of business and particularly how apologizing can be a very effective way to avoid having to undergo the stress and the expense of going to court. Then I started adding to it and then some friends suggested additional chapters and what started as an article quickly became a book.
CHUCK: Wow. All right, I have to ask this question. Lauren, you are an attorney, you are an ordained and a faith minister, obviously, an award-winning author, but on the attorney side, just put the attorney hat on for just a second, there is this side of me that says, “So, if someone in business screws up in some form or fashion and they acknowledge it, admit it and apologize for it, haven’t they compromised their legal position?”
LAUREN: You know, Chuck, that’s the traditional stance for attorneys take. I understand why; we are trained from one L, never to admit anything, never let our clients admit anything, defy every point, and the problem with that is if they’ve made a mistake, it’s going to come out. So, yes, you’ve maybe compromised your position in that you’ve made it a little bit easier for the other side to prove what happened. But what happened is what happened, whether you admit it or not.
Now, as a defendant, you can spend tens or hundreds or hundreds of thousands or however many dollars on defending yourself in court or you can say, “Okay, I did do this. I acknowledge that I did it. The responsible thing is to be an adult about it, own up, admit what happened and work with my client, or my contractor, or my employee, or my customer, to make things right.” Ultimately, a lot of the time it’s going to keep you out of an expensive and difficult lawsuit, plus much of the time you’re going to find that that other person, whoever it may be, is going to be disinclined to sue you because they appreciate your honesty.
There’s a situation in my book where one of the folks I used to work with had made a mistake and as a result had undervalued what a benefit was going to cost a municipal pension plan, went, admitted it. Not only did they not sue him, he has a marvelous reputation at this point. His clients trust him more because they know when things go wrong, he’ll own up. And that’s the high integrity thing to do.
CHUCK: That makes so much sense and it’s fascinating to me on the into thinking about what’s the kind of the ping-pong game back and forth of what you do and I firmly believe in transparency. I know, and most of the people who listen to the show, know that I made some very terrible mistakes when I was in my twenties, which ultimately cost me my career as a CPA and also created for me the opportunity to have stay in federal prison. Not something I’m particularly proud of, but it was a consequence, but following that, people said in many cases, “How have you been able to recover from that?” and the answer is transparency because people do want to trust and if you give them reason to do that, generally they will give you more opportunity than less. I think in many cases that’s what you just said.
LAUREN: Exactly! Honestly, my profession has gotten itself in trouble collectively for getting too cute and too clever. There’s a reason why the legal profession doesn’t have a great reputation and I think a lot of that is because people perceive lawyers as being willing to tell any story as long as their clients are paying them well enough for it. Now, we have a code of ethics, too. [chuckles] I realize not everybody recognizes that but we do. Ultimately, the truth is going to be the truth. For all that you can wiggle around and try to pretend otherwise, you’ve done what you’ve done. So, transparency and accountability ultimately serve you better than a whole lot of pretending that you’re better than you are. I mean, how many times have we heard, “It’s not the mistake, it’s the cover-up”?
CHUCK: Right, absolutely. It’s so amazing to see what happens when people go out in the workplace or wherever it happens to be, make a mistake, spend all this time and energy in the cover-up to keep it from coming to light, which inevitably it does come to light, and then the whole issue becomes the issue of the cover-up and not about the mistake. When you sit back and you think of Martha Stewart, she didn’t go to prison for insider trading, although that’s what the initial issue was. She went to prison for lying and that was where the cover-upissue came from.
LAUREN: It comes up in so many contexts. One of the classic ones, of course, is Richard Nixon with Watergate. It wasn’t the crime, although having known that was a bad thing, but it was the cover-up. He’s sitting there saying, “I am not a crook,” when his people had broken into a hotel room and stole information apparently under his instructions. That’s a pretty good definition of crooked as far as I’m concerned.
CHUCK: Yeah, it is. I’ve got to tell you a little side story. When I was a kid, pretty young, when Nixon ran the first time, no problem. The second go round, before Watergate ever came out, he had this advertisement, “Nixon now more than ever” and he wanted people to contribute for his re-election campaign. I was a 12-year old. I went around collecting money in a little jar for Nixon.
LAUREN: Aww, you must have been real cute.
CHUCK: I collected $10 and I did my patriotic duty. Oh, my Gosh! Collected $10, got a cashier’s check, sent it. When I was 18, I went to the bank to buy my first car, and in those days it wasn’t credit score, it was your character that was the deciding factor for a loan, and the banker came up with his arm around me and after he had approved the loan for my car, he said to me, “Did you collect money for Nixon?”[Lauren laughs]
CHUCK: Lauren, I could have just slid under the desk and I said, “Yes, sir, I did,” thinking this is not going to be pretty and then he says to me, “He never cashed the check. And we’ve had this on our books for about eight years now and we really need to get it off the books. Can we just give you the $10 so we don’t have this outstanding check that’s been out there for 10 years?” I’m sitting there and thinking–
LAUREN: Oh, how funny.
CHUCK: Yeah, the check was probably G. Gordon Liddy’s briefcase deep six in the Potomac somewhere and I’m part of history and didn’t realize it.[Lauren laughs]
CHUCK: Before we go any further, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. I hear the music saying it’s time for a break. My guest is Lauren Bloom. She is absolutely a wonderful ethicist and author of Art of the Apology and if you go to amazon.com and search “Art of the Apology”, it is certainly the first book to pop up, wonderful reviews. We’ll be right back after these messages.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and I am so excited. This segment of the show is about the apology. The book is Art of the Apology: How, When, and Why to Give and Accept Apologies. The author is Lauren Bloom. She is an attorney and just [16:14] Lauren and I had the opportunity to meet, I don’t know, I can’t remember exactly, probably five years ago, four years ago, up in New York City.
LAUREN: Yeah, that sounds about right.
CHUCK: Yeah, for a show that was on ethics and it’s been fun watching her career ever since and the places that she goes and the organization that she speaks to and we got to talking in the first segment about this concept of people say to those of us that deal in the world of ethics, “Gosh, you must be busy.” Let me say this, enough companies don’t put their money where their mouth is to really focus on making the right first choice. So if you’re in an organization out there and you’re thinking to yourself, “Yes, we want to be ethical,” I want to encourage you, go to Lauren’s website. It’s laurenmbloom.com. If you just Google “Lauren Bloom”, it will be the first thing that pops up. She is a masterful presenter and absolutely somebody that your organization would love to hear from especially if you think about this whole concept of the art of the apology.
Lauren, I want to take a current topic to play with just a little bit. Obviously, it’s been all over the news so let’s play it out. Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers, gets ticked off with his girlfriend. I guess it was his girlfriend.
LAUREN: Let’s call it his friend. It’s never been proven. [laughs]
CHUCK: Okay, very good. The attorney comes out to make sure that the facts are clear. So he was talking with his friend, may not be a friend now, but was talking with his friend, a little upset. She takes her cell phone or some recording device, I’m going to assume it was a smarthphone, records the conversation and somehow somebody gets hold of the conversation, leaks it to the media in some form or fashion and they play his ranting, which most people today would call quite racist.
Obviously, it made news everywhere to the point that the NBA commissioner, wanting to make sure that he’s doing the right thing, bans him for life, fines him I think it was $2.5 million and says, “You’ve got to sell the team.” Lauren, all of that is, I’m going to call it basic in the media fact, but I wonder what would have happened if Donald Sterling had read your book and started with some humility and an apology? Would the outcome have been the same?
LAUREN: Probably not, but I have to tell you having watched his apology, he has earned the distinction, in my opinion, of delivering the single worst public apology I have ever seen in my career.[Chuck laughs]
CHUCK: Tell me about that.
LAUREN: Well, he went on Anderson Cooper’s Show and, honestly, I cannot imagine who told him this would be a good idea. I’ve wondered about it, I can’t come up with anyone who would have thought so because the first element of any apology is being sincerely sorry for something. He didn’t seem to need to be sorry for anything! He went on Anderson Cooper and, honestly, all Cooper did was sit there and smile. I mean, he asked a question or two but, basically, just let Mr. Sterling ramble, and ramble he did. Very quickly it became apparent that he felt that he’d done nothing wrong. I don’t know what in heaven’s name he thinks Magic Johnson ever did to him, but it must have been pretty bad. Went off on him again, said a variety of other offensive things and just made it very clear that he was there for some reason, but it certainly wasn’t to say that he was sorry because he wasn’t sorry at all.
I have even wondered if the franchise attorney sort of hoped that he would display to the world what his attitudes really were because, honestly, he destroyed himself in terms of holding onto the team and rightfully so. I mean, again, if you let me play a lawyer for a second, that franchise is a business and it’s a business with employees: the team, all of the people that work in management, the cheerleaders, everybody who make that franchise run. And having said what he did and then having gone on Anderson Cooper and essentially reinforced what he’d said to the world, he set up a situation where every employment decision made thereafter could be challenged on racist ground, so I don’t know how the NBA couldn’t have said, “Sell the team.” I understand as of last I’ve checked that he’s planning to fight it. I don’t see how he can. During his appearance on Anderson Cooper I thought the smartest thing he said was when he said, “There isn’t going to be a lawsuit. It wouldn’t benefit anyone,” and I’m very sorry to see that he’s apparently changed his mind.
CHUCK: I have to tell you, obviously, the concept of the show is straight talk and the straight side of that is it’s mind-boggling. No.1, you’re right, he really wasn’t sorry, and let me just go down a little a rabbit trail for a second. One of the things that I find really fascinating is often, you said earlier in the first segment, you said the truth will always come out. Even people who have a contrived apology generally given enough rope will truly show their colors and I was probably [22:09] on Anderson Cooper’s part just to keep his mouth shut and let him hang himself with the rope that he was just kindly giving him by keeping quite.
LAUREN: His goal was to allow the world to see Donald Sterling express himself without any shame. [laughs] Yeah, it probably was. I found it hard to watch.
LAUREN: I don’t like to see anyone embarrass themselves to that level and whether he knew it or not, he embarrassed himself very badly. I find his views offensive. I was sad for him, I feel very sorry for anyone that has to work for him, but, yeah, usually if someone is making a public apology, give them enough rope, as you say, and they will reveal their true colors, if you don’t mind my mixing my metaphors a little bit.
I’m thinking, for instance, of Tony Hayward who was formerly the CEO of BP and that was an interesting situation because there you had a company that admitted to liability for the oil spill that happened, which is unusual. They were out there saying, “We take responsibility, we did this, we will make it right,” yet it took them weeks to say, “And, oh, by the way, we’re sorry”? Not typically what happens, because usually if a corporate representative doesn’t say those words, it’s because the lawyers had told him not to so I admit I was scratching my head over that one. But if you remember, Hayward in the press saying repeatedly, “We’re going to make it right, we are responsible for this,” and then saying, “Oh, by the way, I’d like my life back,” which is why he is no longer the CEO of BP.
CHUCK: Right, right. It is a fascinating thing to see, and I know your book obviously can use and does quite effectively some great examples, especially in the public arena, because it is something that people can kind of latch onto. There are a lot of circumstances. If you take Donald Sterling and he showed his true colors. It is, by the way to kind of wrap that part up, something that causes me to scratch my head because, fundamentally, unless something has changed that I’m not aware of, he’s been declared incompetent, his wife has sold the team and she has indemnified the NBA for his suit so if he sues and happens to win, she’s going to give money, that otherwise could have been his, to the NBA to indemnify them and it’s like, “What idiot would fight a battle that ultimately they’re going to pay the consequences of it either way? The only winner in that would be attorneys, as it appears to me.”
LAUREN: Like I said, litigation is a rotten way to solve problems. It is a very expensive aspect of life in the United States with the most litigious society on earth. The average American family of four pays thousands of dollars every year into legal fees that are baked into the price of the products and services that we buy.
LAUREN: But the Sterling situation in particular is the perfect example of how nobody wins when the situation is allowed to devolve into kind of he-said-she-said cross complaint lawsuits. They don’t serve anyone except for lawyers and frankly they’re stressful even for them. Yes, they make money but they do it at one heck of a price.
CHUCK: Yeah. Lauren, let’s switch to a different example and I’m not sure how much time we have in this segment. We’ll hear some music and I bet when we do, we might have to break this up, but let’s take Pete Rose. Different issue, a long time ago, and now he’s making the news again. It was interesting to me. I was out in Las Vegas, which by the way happens to be where he lives, I didn’t know that until a day or so ago, but I was out in Las Vegas for a convention and Pete Rose happened to be there. He was signing autographs. There were a fair number of people at the convention getting the Pete Rose autograph, although I have to say he looked miserable doing it, but there happened to be a sports store there in the Vegas market. I happened to be walking by this sports store because Vegas has all these stores attached to casinos and hotels and so forth, and here’s Pete Rose and there was nobody in line. Nobody wanting his autograph. He was just sitting there waiting for someone to want the Pete Rose autograph. It appears today in the news that Pete Rose is saying, “Look, I didn’t bet on baseball when I played. I did when I was a manager,” but surely there is a time for a second chance, and of course that’s the title of my first book, Second Chances, and I hear music!
This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. We’ll be right back after this break with Lauren Bloom, author of Art of the Apology and we’re talking about some contemporary issues and we’ll get Lauren’s take on should Pete Rose be able to apologize and perhaps be reconsidered for the Hall of Fame or are consequences in some cases permanent because the action is just so outrageous? This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Stick with me and we’ll be back in just a minute.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio, so let’s assume for a moment as you listen to this show you screwed up and did something wrong. You’re not particularly proud of it. Perhaps it is not widely known. I don’t know what the circumstance would be, but I will tell you there is one book that you should read. It’s called Art of the Apology: How, When, And Why to Give and Accept Apologies.
I know, as do many of the people who are listening to the show, I had made my share of mistakes and circumstances under which an apology was appropriate and for which one was given, that I have found that transparency, responsibility and truthfulness absolutely does pay off, although it will not always eliminate the consequence the choices that we might make. Before we went to break, Lauren and I were talking about Donald Sterling and his fiasco and we were kind of just getting ready to talk a little bit about Pete Rose who, of course, many years ago as a manager bet on baseball and was banned and, of course, did not get the opportunity to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Now he, some 25 or so years later, said, “Gosh, there ought to be some period of time under which I might be entitled for a second chance or at least to be voted on the merits of my play as a player and not on the choices I made as a manager.” My guest is Lauren Bloom. Lauren, what do you think about that?
LAUREN: I’m aware of the story and I think he makes a reasonable point, but hear me out. My concern about this is that it’s coming from him and not from other people. I think one of the consequences of making a mistake is that to some degree you have to accept the consequences until other people start saying they think you’re okay. One of the things I’ve noticed about Pete Rose is, according to news reports, he’s spending 20 days a month so basically 5 days a week, 4.5 hours a day sitting in a store in Las Vegas signing autographs.
LAUREN: And the items in question that he’s signing cost anywhere from $80 to $800. Okay. What if instead he was spending that time out in the community giving back? I’ve mentioned this because I think there’s a parallel here to some degree to Michael Vick who, of course, was stripped of everything because of his dogfighting. The difference is Vick went as a part of his apology to the community and to his sport. He really had gone out of his way to make amends for what he did and he has, in fact, been working in the community with kids explaining why dogfighting is vicious and dangerous, why it’s wrong, why he regrets what he did. In other words, he has taken what he has done and has tried to turn around and teach somebody else to do better.
In fact, if you’re curious about it, Wayne Pacelle as the CEO of the Humane Society has written a wonderful book called The Bond about our kinship with animals and how we take care of them. In that, among other things, he talks about the Humane Society’s decision to partner with Michael Vick, which is not an easy one for them to make, but that’s a situation where I think he has really taken, that he has turned around and has earned his way back into society and into public respect. I think Pete Rose can say he would like a second chance. I’d like to see him get it, but I think he’s more likely to get it and more likely to regain the respective fans if he goes out and does something for the community as a way of making amends for what he did.
CHUCK: You know, Lauren, I have to say being someone that has made some fairly significant mistakes in life, I do agree with what you’re saying and there is a very, very clear distinction between Pete Rose, and I have nothing against the man–
LAUREN: Nor do I.
CHUCK: Seems like as an [32:04] fellow, but you take Pete Rose who is signing autographs and looking at, “Here’s my record and you want an autograph and I can make some money doing this,” versus making that energetic commitment to do something to help people see the significance of not betting. I do find it, this is probably a little scattered, I just find it kind of strange that Pete Rose is signing baseballs or whatever it happens to be, baseball cards or posters in my particular case is what I saw, but he’s signing them in Las Vegas. There’s something to me that’s strange about it.
LAUREN: Yeah, I did notice that. I’d rather see him working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation or something.
LAUREN: You make a real good point and I think the reason the idea of he’s coming back is less appealing than it might be is part of what you make amends is you demonstrate to the world that you get it, that you understand that you made a mistake, and that you really want to do something and make it right, not just to continue to put money in your pocket.
LAUREN: I think it’s important to draw the distinction between being forgiven for what he did, which happened a long time ago, and being a lot of go out there, make a living, support himself or what have you, and being a sports hero. To me, being inducted to the Hall of Fame says you’re a hero. Signing baseballs in Vegas is not something a hero necessarily does. I think he’s asking for the privilege of same admiration without necessarily having demonstrated that he understands what he did wrong and finding a way to earn that back.
CHUCK: Right. I would agree with you. You made a comment and I don’t remember exactly what your terminology was just a second ago, but I want to kind of dwarf it into a question. This wonderful book, Art of the Apology, I have found in my personal experience that it is certainly possible for someone to be forgiven for really bad choices. I have also found it is not likely that those choices, however, will be forgotten. I’m just curious if you have a feel for what would one expect when apologizing? Do you expect forgiveness and forgetfulness or what?
LAUREN: Probably it depends on the circumstances and I think it also depends on who you are, what you’re forgiven, what you’re asking to be forgiven for, and, frankly, how much people like and admire you otherwise. I think of Hugh Grant for instance. The charming, sort of boyish, [34:56] actor from England who embarrassed himself with a prostitute in an alley and he went on Letterman. First he issues an apology. Then he went away for a while, which of course was a part of this. Then he went on Letterman, Late Night, and sat there and was just charming all over the couch. He was very straightforward about having been an idiot, not knowing what he was doing, desperately embarrassed, so ashamed, so sorry and by the time he was done, we were already to say, “Hugh, what’s your next movie?” Now, I will say I don’t think his career has ever fully recovered.
LAUREN: I think when you ask forgetfulness, it takes a long time. If you Google Kathie Lee Gifford, one of the first things you’re going to find are the allegations about Child Abuse and the factor is that they were producing products for her years ago and it’s been a long time since that.
LAUREN: I think part of making a mistake and apologizing for it is recognizing that you’re going to have to live with what you’ve done. I think as a society we have the right to say, “We forgive you for it and we’ll take you back to whatever degree,” but expecting people just to forget that things happened, probably was never realistic and, frankly, in the Internet age isn’t at all. Things just follow us and I’m afraid part of growing up is recognizing that you carry your stuff your whole life.
CHUCK: It’s very interesting and I know in my case, when I have the opportunity to speak with young people in high schools and especially in the college setting, one of the things we talk about, we talk about ethical behavior and, of course, I ask them, “Do you have a Facebook page?” and everybody does, of course. Then I ask a question, “Well, is it ethical for me as a 50-some-year old, who might be hiring people, is it ethical for me to look at your Facebook page to make a determination?” Most of them actually say no! They don’t think it is, but the reality of it is what you just said is correct; what you put out in the world will follow you and it’s sticky. It doesn’t go away.
LAUREN: It is and it is something I talk with my own daughter about. You’ve met my daughter.
CHUCK: I did.
LAUREN: She’s now 11 and you wouldn’t recognize her, but she’s now getting to that age of online presence. We’re having to have the conversations about who you do and don’t friend, what pictures you put up and which ones you don’t. I think the Internet is in many ways very dangerous for young people because they don’t recognize that everything that goes up is there forever.
LAUREN: But in terms of the aspect of the employer looking, that’s public information.
LAUREN: If I can find it online as an employer, I don’t think there’s anything unethical about me looking. Having said that, I think it’s probably wise for the employer to say, “All right, the kid was 17 when this went up.” I don’t think we’ve yet gotten to where we necessarily have reasonable perspective on things, particularly things that are online and I will say Americans can be very punishing. I was very struck for instance. I happened to be in Europe when the Monica Lewinsky story broke and, of course, the United States was just up in arms about what had happened at the White House and the folks and the B&Bs around me were very surprised that the Americans were so upset about a politician, as they put it, getting a little on the side.[Chuck chuckles]
LAUREN: But we’re an idealistic culture. We want our people to be and particularly our public figures, our leaders, our captains of industry, our politicians to be really, really good people. Now, I don’t think it’s fair to hold let’s say sports figures, for instance, to be a role model for small children necessarily.
LAUREN: I don’t know that all CEOs necessarily have to be role models for small children, although I would hope the CEO of a company like Disney would be, for instance. When you start talking about politicians, when you start talking about community readers, people will basically stand up to tell the rest of us how to live. They better be prepared to behave in a very ethical way.
CHUCK: Well, that’s a true statement and this is Chuck Gallagher. This is Straight Talk Radio on Transformation Talk Radio, and my guest is Lauren Bloom. Boy, it has been a fun conversation and it’s going so fast. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be back for our last segment to talk more about Art of the Apology. This is Chuck Gallagher, stick with us.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio on Transformation Talk Radio and we have been talking with Lauren Bloom, author of Art of the Apology: How, When, and Why to Give and Accept Apologies. This has been a fun interview and a fun conversation, and, Lauren, I am so appreciative that you’re taking the time to join me here.
Let me say this to our audience; I know that a lot of people who will be listening to this across the country realize that I speak on ethics and you need to know Lauren Bloom speaks on ethics and, in fact, is a marvelous presenter. She and I had the opportunity to meet each other for the first time in person in a video shoot up in New York City. It was a fun experience then and I have followed her career for a number of years. I was talking with Bruce Weinstein the other day. He is The Ethics Guy and the conversation kind of went like this. Bruce says, “I’m either following you or you’re following me and we’re following Lauren.” So if your organization is committed to a culture of ethical action, you need to go to Lauren’s website. It is laurenmbloom.com. If you Google “Lauren Bloom”, you will absolutely see her website. She is a marvelous presenter and I highly recommend her. Considering her talk to her, reach out. Of course, you can find her on Google+, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and her website will give you all of the contact information that you need.
We’ve been talking about this whole concept of apologizing and we’ve been using public figures and, Lauren, I want to go in two different directions, but the first one because where we left, you were talking about people who are in public life and I’m mystified by this concept. In the state of South Carolina we had our former governor Mark Sanford. That was the guy that went extensively in the Appalachian Trail and ended up in Argentina.
LAUREN: Oh, yes.
CHUCK: You remember him. In North Carolina we had John Edwards who, before his fall from grace, many people said was the rising young democratic senator, good-looking, charisma, could be president, another John F. Kennedy type who has just fallen from grace, and, of course, the last one, which I still see raising his head and I can’t imagine how he could, is Anthony Weiner. I’m wondering if you asked those guys 10 years, if you went back 10 years, a decade and said, “Guys, would you do something that would destroy your political career?” I think you and I both would say they would say, “No, not a chance,” and yet they did. So, maybe this ties into ethics, maybe it ties into choices and consequences and certainly there’s the potential for it to tie into art of the apology. What do you think motivates some people that have such a potential for success to just fall off a wagon?
LAUREN: Well, I think there are an awful lot of temptations for people in public life. I’ve worked in Washington D.C. and sort of observed the local flora and fauna, if you like, enough to know that politicians have groupies, groupies throw themselves at them. While sports stars and actors and singers get that, somehow we’re more tolerant of that than we are with our politicians. I think there’s a general expectation that politicians will behave themselves. Probably a lot of the time they’ll say no 99 times and then the one time they say yes and I think they don’t think they’re going to get caught. I think they don’t think that people will fail to forgive them when they do get caught, but as we’ve discussed, the truth comes out. I think politicians need to recognize that if they want that power and influence, they’ve got to pay the price of behaving themselves. Nothing keeps them from going back to a lucrative law practice, but if they want to be out there writing laws the rest of us have to follow, they need to recognize that’s one of those things that that’s not going to happen when they have fall from grace because there are always other people to elect.
CHUCK: That’s a very powerful thing, “There are always other people to elect.” And you are right. I will say from personal experience. If you make a bad choice and nothing immediately happens, it is very easy for your need combined with the opportunity that you take to be rationalized into believing it won’t ever be caught or at some point you can even rationalize that wrong is right. That’s not a good thing. I’m not suggesting that it’s a positive thing by any stretch of the imagination but it is part of human nature. Maybe not of everybody but certainly of enough people that we can see on a daily basis, examples of people who should read your book.
LAUREN: Let me just throw on the minister hat for a second. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and I am a great believer in forgiveness. I am a great believer in reconciliation. That’s another reason I wrote the book. It’s to make it easier for people to get to that phase. At the same time, just because you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean you put them right back where they were before they crossed the line.
CHUCK: That’s a true statement. I have found in my personal life, to be very candid with folks that are listening, I have never been put back to where I was before. I will never be a CPA again, I know that. I will always be a convicted felon unless the President of the United States decides to pardon me and even at that, I’m still acknowledged of having committed the crime. I would in that circumstance be acknowledged to having been forgiven by the President, but it doesn’t wipe away the fact that the crime was committed in the first place. So you can’t wipe away the past. What we do, the choices we make stick with us and I think you said that, but I have also found, and I think it’s certainly true to your book, that if you make the appropriate apology that is heartfelt and change your choices and change your actions, it certainly can be quite empowering to people and their lives.
Let me ask you a question, Lauren. In this book, let’s get away from all of the public side of it and go to the personal side, so let’s talk about individual choices and apologies. Talk to us a little bit about a spouse cheats on another. Talk about the apology.
LAUREN: Oh, that’s tough. You’ve probably hit on the single toughest situation when you’re dealing in a personal relationship because the breach of trust is just profound. There are basically six elements to an effective apology in any setting.
For one thing, you have to say you’re sorry and it all starts with sincerity. “I’m sorry,” is the only thing that’s going to work there. No shilly-shallying, no gamesmanship with words.
Then, “I should have not done this and I am responsible for hurting you.” Taking responsibility for what you’ve done, acknowledging it, not playing games, certainly not blaming the other spouse or trying to justify it, making amends, which is going to be tough here and I think in a situation like that, it’s a matter of if your spouse if willing to continue the conversation, being willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to make it right as far as your spouse is concerned. Listening, always important to let the other person have their say about what you did and how you upset them. Again, this is really going to be painful, especially in a situation like that, but letting your spouse tell you as often and as harshly as necessary how hurt and angry they are is going to be part of it. Expressing appreciation to your spouse for not only the years together, not only the marriage but also whatever forgiveness and understanding they’re willing to extend. I think this piece is really important. It’s something that a lot of people forget when they apologize; you need to tell the other person why you value them, why you appreciate them, why they are important to you, and then for heaven’s sakes doing better next time. You may be able to weather one situation like that. I doubt very much whether most couples are going to be able to weather, too.
CHUCK: It’s profound and I hear the music. I will say this before we completely run out of time. In my case I made some fairly terrible mistakes and, Lauren, you were talking about this idea of trust and I have clearly found in my life when you break trust, I might be forgiven, it won’t be forgotten and often times that breaking of trust can never be rebuilt. The apology was one thing, the marriage did not survive, but my second marriage is based on trust and, boy, if there is something that I’ve learned, it’s transparency and trust is the thing that will make the marriage survive and do well.
My guest has been Lauren Bloom. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. I want to say this as we wrap things up; go to Lauren’s website, Google “Lauren Bloom” or go to laurenmbloom.com. She has a wonderful website. Contact information there, there are some really cool questions on her site, but click on the tab Speaking Services. She has got some great programs. I particularly like the one Integrity 101: What Every Business Person Should Know.
Lauren, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the program with me. It has certainly been a joy and a pleasure on our end. Thank you so much.
LAUREN: Chuck, it’s been a delight. Thank you very much for having me.
CHUCK: Appreciate it. Next week tune in and here on Transformation Talk Radio we will be back with Straight Talk and continue the conversation about things that are important to you in ways that can transform your life. This is Chuck Gallagher, bye-bye!
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