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Is It Too Late Now to Say Sorry?

(Editor’s Note: I realize the headline is a Justin Bieber song and I do not apologize at all.)

I recently read an article from Motto, brought to you by the folks at TIME, titled “5 Rules for Apologizing Like a Grownup.” It caught my eye since I recently turned 30 and looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Ashley, you’re an adult now.” No lie.

The article makes some good points:

  • You cannot put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. Don’t even try.
  • Apologize for what you did.
  • If you are sorry, think of what you will do to fix the situation or prevent it from happening again.
  • No “but”s.
  • Remember that forgiveness isn’t part of the deal.

But none of this can happen if you don’t first accept responsibility, which can be even more difficult than saying sorry. Sometimes — OK, most times — it’s easier to make excuses or get defensive than to suck it up and admit you did something wrong.

This is incredibly important in Public Relations as we work to serve our clients on a daily basis. I’m firing off countless emails a day, juggling dozens of projects and managing multiple teams. (Not to mention trying to balance a growing number of freelance writing gigs.) Miscommunication will happen in the midst of all that. So will typos. I pride myself on doing great work, but I’m human. Learning to take responsibility for my mistakes, as well as the mistakes made by my teams, has played a huge role in my professional growth. I could easily make excuses, like the fact that I was on 12 flights last month and really hate flying — but that’s not an acceptable reason to drop the ball on anything. That’s when clients suffer.

So my advice to Public Relations pros young and old — learn to take the fall when you mess up. And then learn how to say sorry and move on.