Tossing salad expert Dan Cathy, the Chick-fil-A president who gave the finger to gay activists last year, is a changed man. Now the Atlanta-based executive says he’s learned not to use his outside voice when trashing LGBT equality.

Cathy (photo) talked with USA Today to help the media outlet gloss over the company’s anti-gay donations and his statements opposing LGBT issues. It was all nice-nice pleasantries that marketing reporter Bruce Horovitz somehow managed to turn into a piece promoting the chain’s revamped salad lineup. Strange but true.

At the same time, Cathy, known for his conservative views, has worked to make some amends with the gay community since last year’s social-media controversy.

“It’s helped me to be more wise in what I say and how I say it,” says Cathy, in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY.

While Chick-fil-A still encourages “traditional families,” Cathy says, “our objective is always to show respect for other people and show respect for their views.”

Following last year’s social-media firestorm, he says, private meetings with some LGBT leaders, helped him to learn “that many in the LGBT community have been subject to incredible criticisms, meanness and bullying.” And, to his horror, some of that was taking place in the name of Chick-fil-A. His dismay over such treatment, he says, helped to form a “point of common ground,” with his own beliefs. “When kids — and even adults — have belittling words towards each other, that is inappropriate,” he says.

How sweet. An empathetic Cathy. Hater of bullying and gay marriage struggling to overcome the void of Emory dumping his chain from campus.