In our social and business lives we’re often likely to get knock backs from time to time. Unhelpfully, avoiding rejection may become a pattern that limits us and what we could otherwise offer to the world.
Some of us are likely to remember a youthful moment in which we plucked up courage to ask a pretty young thing to dance or go on a date and we were told, no.
Welcome to learning about the discomfort and anguish of rejection.
In some cultures we’re mostly trained to fear rejection, avoiding ‘no’ so that we don’t have to identify what is absent in our offering to others.
For most people, training to fear rejection starts young. If you are a parent or you spend time around young kids you’ll be aware that no is rarely a word to register in the brains of super persistent youngsters. Most young kids refuse to accept a negative response to their requests and will keep working adults until they get what they want. Then, gradually over time, even the most robust kids may falsely learn that rejection relates in some way to their own self worth.
But taking rejection personally is far from useful, and fearing it has likely cost the world untold numbers of losses in important, game changing contributions.
From Thomas Edison and Walt Disney, to Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey, the world’s most brilliant minds have had to deal with doors slammed in their faces again and again before making something stick.
When you consider it logically though, taking on the feeling or state of rejection is an absurd idea in most cases (family relationships aside). If you’re asking for the big investment, or the job or the dance, up to the moment you ask for it, you don’t have it. Should the person say no you’re simply in the same place as when you started, except now you have the choice to internalize the rejection, making it about you, or finding the value in it and asking for feedback as to why you received that response?
There are more reasons than we could ever conceive for receiving a no to our requests. Typically, we might like to think we can read minds or that we can reach into the universal gloop and know, (seek certainty) as to why we have been refused.
But you can’t read minds. Or gloop. Never. Ever.
(There’s a million bucks to anyone who can prove they can)
Even if you ask the person rejecting you why they did so, it’s unlikely you’ll get a fully honest answer. After all, how many influences are there upon each of us when confronted with choices to make in each moment? Exactly. Lots.
The trick to rejection is to get whatever useful information is available from the rejecter. Then choose to change your approach or not, move on, or take a four-year old kids’ attitude and refocus your efforts for the next round of intelligent persistence.
If you find that you are trained really well in feeling unwanted self-worth emotions in the face of rejection, you can use the perceptual positions in the video below. By stepping into a 2nd position or ‘being the other’ on the person who said no, you can get useful information on what it is about you that isn’t achieving results, or what it is about the values and needs of the other person who rejected you that are not aligned with your offering.
From the 3rd or observer position (in the same video), you can perceive yourself receiving the rejection as feedback, dissociated from any emotional reaction.
Some folks have a thick skin and can persist over and over again in the hope of battering down resistance. The drawback to this approach is that you are quite likely to miss learning from what is and isn’t working. It’s probably better to learn to identify and respond to what the world is telling us, rather than simply banging our heads against a wall again and again.
One of the finest examples (agreed, I’m biased) of intelligent persistence came from my four-year old son. You could easily utilize his approach, though I take no responsibility for the results.
Offered with a beaming smile of expectation, he provided me the following choice,
‘Dad, can I have another bowl of ice cream?’ And before I could reply, ‘Dad, the answer is yes, or yes? So which yes is it?’