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The 8 Steps on How Not to Apologize Like Donald Sterling

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If you’ve been following the news, you know of Donald Sterling. He’s not only became synonymous with racial bias, but when he was caught making these statements; his apology wasn’t so much an apology as it was a defense. Here’s how Sterling went about apologizing, and how it should have been done.

1. Recognize That You Did Something Wrong

What Sterling did: Sterling didn’t have to recognize anything—the world did that for him when TMZ released the audio recording of his diatribe on hidden tape. Yet with confirmed audio, he still didn’t  believe he did anything wrong.
eHow suggests: Sadly, Sterling would never get past this first step. He never recognized any wrong-doing in what was to be his apologetic interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. You, on the other hand, need to admit to yourself that you did something wrong.

2. Know Why You’re Apologizing

What Sterling did: Sterling—did he ever apologize? No. He told Cooper he was “baited” by former associate V. Stiviano. He acted confused as to why anyone would “even know how [he could] say words like that.” As far as he’s concerned, Stivano made him make racist comments.
eHow suggests: If you completed Step 1, you know you did something wrong. Now figure out why it’s wrong. Really get into the head of who is mad and what you did to upset them. Without knowing why you’re apologizing, your apology means nothing.

3. Are You Ready to Apologize?

What Sterling did: Sterling apologized because he realized a large part of his empire could possibly vanish—his comments broke ironclad NBA policies. Sterling didn’t apologize because he was sorry of his statements recorded by Stiviano, he apologized because he was caught and backed into a corner. When Sterling admitted, “I don’t know how to correct it,” it was a sure sign that he wasn’t ready to continue with the apology process.
eHow suggests: Knowing if you’re ready to apologize means you’re ready to apologize sincerely. There’s no point in apologizing if you’re just sorry for getting caught.

4. Have Empathy!

What Sterling did: While Sterling did admit that what he said was wrong, he never made it clear that he realized he angered fans, players, and just about everyone else in the world.
eHow suggests: Specifically address who you’ve hurt. In Sterling’s case, he needed to name-check the people he offended. He never apologized to a person or group of people. It was just a blanket apology. You can’t truly apologize if you don’t know who you’re apologizing to.

5. Explain Why You’re About to Apologize

What Sterling did: Sterling really flubbed this step. He literally said he was set up—it was more of a defense than an apology. The closest he came to an explanation for his comments was “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things–I was baited.” Baited?
eHow suggests: Every sincere, successful apology begins with a solid intro—think of it as your mission statement. What should Sterling have said? “I am sorry for my racist statements. I’d like to repair my relationship with my team, the NBA, fans, and anyone else offended by what I said.”

6. Acknowledge their Feelings

What Sterling did: Because he never addressed anyone, Sterling was never able to acknowledge anyone’s feelings. This, if you heard his entire CNN apology, gave his interview a hallow aftertaste.
eHow suggests: Sterling could have said something as simple as, “I know I hurt many people with what I said, and I intend to work towards your forgiveness.” Anything that suggests he understood that feelings were severely hurt would have helped his cause.

7. You Will Not Repeat Your Bad Behavior

What Sterling did: Sterling never even got close to promising us he’d never repeat his behavior simply because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He was a victim of extortion, or so he claimed.
eHow suggests: When people get your apology, they also want to know you learned a lesson. They want to be reassured, in words, that what you did to get you in this position will never happen again. A heartfelt “This will never happen again” is all people want to hear.

8. Accept Your Consequences

What Sterling did: A true apologist would make an earnest admission of guilt and let the consequences of their actions commence. Instead, Sterling hired a prominent antitrust litigator to defend his refusal to pay the NBA the $2.5 million fine for his racist comments.
eHow suggests: At this point, you’ve made a very thoughtful apology. All you can do now is respect the person (or people) you hurt, and let them come to terms with your regret. If they’re as forgiving as you are sorry, they’ll forgive you and everyone can go on in “rebuilding the relationship” mode. If they don’t forgive you, you lick your wounds, move on, and follow through with your apologetic promises anyway. There’s a chance it might take days, weeks, even years for forgiveness.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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