Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


Human frailty and healing

Q: Not so long ago, Alec Baldwin called his teen daughter names in a horrifying phone call heard around the world. Now he's co-hosting the Oscars ceremony. Was the decision to spotlight Baldwin a wise one? And after a public figure embarrasses himself or herself so profoundly, how do they regain their footing? Who has managed to overcome such shame, and who has failed to?

Well, it was April 2007 when Alec left the unfortunate voicemail, so it was three years ago -- plenty of time to become the water under the bridge. Alec has done much to repair his image both professionally and privately.The Academy Awards were interested in his talent and entertainment value, neither of which were ever in question.

What is one to do when embarassing news hits the press? There are two components to recovery: personal and public. The former being much more difficult and often at the mercy of the latter.

For the personal, let's remember the source of embarrassment for anyone is their vulnerability. It showcases our human frailty. This is not something to be ashamed of. It is our condition. However, living this truism is easier said than done.

True reflection, the support of loved ones, and actions that right your wrongs are all in order. Then, you must plumb the depths of your own being to seek forgiveness from the harshest critic, yourself.

As for the public, they are notoriously fickle. Some will never forget and carry a grudge to their dying breath. Others are easily distracted by the next bit of juicy news, and turn their attention as quickly. Neither of these two groups can really be addressed effectively by your actions.

However, there is one other group to keep in mind, those who were truly offended and are open to repair. Here is where real work can be done to set things straight. Meet with them. Hear them out. Give voice to your regret and take immediate action to demonstrate your intention to rebuild trust. Then, stay on the straight and narrow and let that grand old master, Time, heal wounds as only it can.

By Seth Kahan  |  March 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  The comeback Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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