Nonverbal Communication Analysis №3719: Donald Trump’s “Apology” — Crisis Management, Body Language and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Whenever an apology is made — whether during an everyday experience with a single individual, from psychological perspective or from a point of view of crisis management — several key elements must always be included if the apology is to interpreted as sincere.
The components (in no particular order of priority) of a Sincere Apology are:
1. An apology must be given by the person who committed the act — not by a manager, an attorney or other surrogate.
2. An apology must not be scripted. Although a person may use notes (provided they’re not lengthy and we don’t rely on them too much — for we all forget subtopics when we’re nervous), apologies must be spoken from the heart.
3. An apology must be given either live with press access — or at least in a video-audio format
4. There must be an acknowledgement of responsibility (partial) — “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize”and “I’ve said some foolish things …”
5. A commitment to change must be made so as to prevent further infractions “I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down,”
6. An apology must include a repair offering
7. Asking for forgiveness is required with an apology
8. Regret must be expressed — “I’ve said and done things I regret”
9. The vocal qualities (tone, cadence, volume, etc.) must be congruent with sincerity
10.The facial nonverbals and other body language qualities must be reflect sincerity
On Friday, Donald Trump issued an ‘apology’ for the 2005 Access Hollywood video published earlier that day by the Washington Post (Just two days prior to the second of the thee 2016 Presidential Debates). This statement by Mr. Trump can be seen in the video above. Here is the transcript:
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.
Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America, but my travels have also changed me. I’ve spent time with grieving mothers who’ve lost their children, laid-off workers whose jobs have gone to other countries, and people from all walks of life who just want a better future. I have gotten to know the great people of our country, and I’ve been humbled by the faith they’ve placed in me. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.
Let’s be honest — we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we’re facing today. We are losing our jobs, we’re less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broken. Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.
I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims. We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
Mr. Trump deserves some credit for delivering this statement himself and not by a surrogate. It was performed via a release of a video — and not by phone or a full written statement.
It was however, very scripted — and read off a teleprompter. Such “apologies” are, by definition, never sincere. They must be freely spoken, never read.
Although Mr. Trump did acknowledge wrong doing — and importantly expressed regret, he failed to differentiate between the lewd language he used — and the acts (which if true fit the legal and medical definitions of sexual assault) he was describing. This distinction is of profound importance and each should be addressed.
Mr. Trump did not ask for forgiveness.
Mr. Trump did not say, “I’m sorry”.
Mr. Trump did not offer to repair any wrongs done to the individuals whom he violated.
Mr. Trump’s tone of voice (and other vocal qualities) at no time was even close to sincere. On the contrary, his voice was defensive and angry.
With respect to Donald Trump’s Nonverbal Behavior — His face changed very little throughout his 90 second statement. He was in effect, wearing a living mask. This was of course particularly true of the top half of his face. Donald Trump’s facial expression was locked in anger. At several times he also displayed contempt and at multiple times hubris.
Although some of Mr. Trump’s shoulder movement were secondary to his (off camera) hand movements, he did display several partial shoulder shrugs are indications of the thought-emotions of: “I don’t know”, “I don’t care”, “What could I do?”, “What does it matter?”
There was absolutely no facial expressions even remotely indicative of empathy, sorrow, regret or shame. This absence is most notable during 0:17–0:19 as he says, “I said it, I was wrong and I apologize”.
Summary: Although Donald Trump’s statement does meet some of the requirements of an apology, the majority of these criteria are omitted. At no time was Mr. Trump’s body language congruent with a sincere apology.
This post and the associated website serve as reference sources for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts — not to advance any political, religious or other agenda.