How to Deal with Rejection in Any Situation
Imagine this situation: You just finish a job interview and seemed to have aced the interview. You took two weeks to prepare for the interview, and you made sure you had slick, impressive answers ready for any possible question. Your résumé took hours to get perfect. You are going to get this job. A long week later, the phone rings. Your stomach is in knots. Almost breathless with excitement, you pick up. “We’re sorry,” an unsympathetic voice tells you. “The position is filled.”
How do you feel? Probably crushed. Anger and confusion pulse through you. You wonder what the person who got the job has that you don’t – perhaps they interviewed better than you, they had more experience, or perhaps you did something horribly wrong. You might respond with venom. “I never really wanted that job, anyway.” Or you mind find yourself feeling depressed and de-motivated…if you can’t even get a job you pour your heart into, what hope is there for your future?
Change the scenario to dating or sales and the same pain plays out. Rejection is painful in its many forms. A romantic partner has probably left you, or you didn’t get a job. Less obvious situations can trigger feelings of rejection; a friend cancelling on your dinner date at the last minute, a store clerk who doesn’t return your smile, the party you weren’t invited to. Rejection can sting.
Rejection is About Shame
John Bradshaw in his book Healing the Shame That Binds You, argues that we all carry around the idea that we are inherently flawed and inferior. He calls it a sense of shame. The shame can perpetuate by retaining a burden of sin in religion and the media giving us ideals that are almost impossible to live up to. Rejection stabs at our core, because we are social beings, and by our nature we obsess with what people think about us.
You learned about the world around you by asking other people when you were a child. If your teacher pointed to a new object and told you it was rhinoceros, then that’s what it was. Our knowledge about ourselves mostly comes from other people. We “learn” we are great or inferior based on how others treat us. Rejection tells us what we fear on the inside: we are flawed, defective, and unlovable.
Emotions are a form of energy in motion. They signal us of a loss, a threat or a satiation. Sadness is about losing something we cherish. Anger and fear are signal of actual or impending threats to our well-being. Joy signals that we are fulfilled and satisfied. Whenever a child is shamed through some form of abandonment, feelings of anger, hurt and sadness arise. Since shame-based parents are shame bound in all their emotions, they cannot tolerate their children’s emotions. Therefore, they shame their children’s emotions. When their emotions are shamed, children numb out, so they don’t feel their emotions.John Bradshaw
Rejection is inevitable. It is impossible to always get exactly what you want, for everybody to behave exactly as you want them to. What can you do to stop yourself from spiraling into a pit of despair every time a potential lover turns you down or a new job prospect chooses another client over you?
Did you know that J. K. Rowling had her Harry Potter books rejected by twelve publishers before they hit the big-time? 302 companies allegedly turned down Walt Disney for funding before getting it for Disney World. Over a thousand restaurant owners rejected Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken recipe.
How different would things be if these people stopped at the first hurdle, and let rejection stop them from trying again? Their experiences show that it is not about what happens to you, but about how you respond to rejection.
There are practical steps you can take for improvement to decrease your chances of being rejected such as taking care of your appearance, learning interview or flirting skills, and building a good résumé. The most powerful tool for handling rejection is your mind. By changing the way you look at rejection, you free yourself from the pain it usually brings.
Here are the powerful ways to handle rejection:
See the Experience as a Learning Opportunity
You poured your heart and soul into that relationship, and broke up. The easy solution is to feel sorry for yourself, to wonder why you just can’t keep a great relationship, or to feel angry that the ex couldn’t see what a great asset you’d be.
See it as an opportunity to learn something instead of viewing the rejection as a negative event. You’re on the right track when you replay moments of conflict and wonder what you did wrong. Keep it realistic. Think about what you could have done better instead of thinking of what “messed things up”.
For a job interview, ask the interviewer what advice they can give you for the future. Some companies are busy and don’t have the time to answer such queries. You might receive useful feedback about what would have helped your interview.
Imagine a world that never rejected you. What would you learn about yourself?
Imagine a world that never rejected you. What would you learn about yourself? Not much! Go into a situation ready to do your best with an openness to learn instead of letting your ego take a massive blow every time you hear a “no”.
This reframe is effective. Think of it as trial and error toward your formula for success rather than “I’m putting myself out there”. If you don’t get the job, look at what you can do better next time. If you do get the job, note down what helped you. I encourage you to learn more about NLP presuppositions and get Mind-Lines for a healthy perspective on anything.
Differentiate between rejections you had control over, and rejection that was inevitable. If you propose to a married woman on your first date or ask for a job at a firm that isn’t hiring, then the rejection is a result of circumstance, not your approach. For those things you can control, think about what you can learn from this rejection, and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
Get Over Perfectionism
When perfectionism is driving…Shame is always riding shotgun.Brene’ Brown, author of Rising Strong
If you’re the kind of person who spends hours getting things “just right”, it can be really hard to accept negative feedback. Imagine you’ve spend hours getting ready to go out, only to be rejected by every woman at the bar.
What’s going on? Surely you look amazing…the problem must be theirs. You tell yourself these women must all be blind, or frigid, if they can’t see how amazing you are. This kind of thinking can lead you to ignore rejection and focus on bitter, angry thoughts toward the people who rejected you.
Be careful of thoughts like “They should recognize how great a catch I am” or “It’s their fault they can’t see what I great lover I’d make”. This takes away your power to do something, and leaves the judgement in the hands of others. Nobody is perfect, and you are no exception.
Once you let go of the idea of perfection, you can start to accept criticism and rejection a little more. Rather than every woman in the bar being blind to your awesomeness, consider that you might need to re-evaluate the way you approach them.
Good writers know the danger of perfectionism. An effective way to write a book loved by Timothy Ferriss, author of three bestsellers on business and self-optimization, is to deliver sections of a book to various people early on in the process. That way feedback is given early to determine what should be edited. Any big project can be broken into small runs with some aspect of feedback to direct future actions, rather than one big delivery at the end that can setup the project for rejection because no one likes it.
Look Out for Faulty Attributions
We don’t always think clearly when we reel from the pain of rejection. Rejection can lead to illogical thoughts that drag us deeper down into depression and self-pity.
Imagine you have been on two dates with a new girl. You thought things were going well, but she cancels your third date without warning and you don’t hear from her again. Do you immediately think, “Well, she’s probably very busy. Besides, I might have put her off with all that talk about psychology.”
Psychologists found that people who make global, stable, and internal attributions are more likely to be depressed…
Not everybody is this logical. How often have you ended up thinking “I’m so unlovable! Nobody will ever want to be with me because I’m so boring/stupid/ugly. Why do chicks always reject me? I’m so useless. No wonder my friends never want to see me!”
As humans, we naturally seek order from chaos. We try to find patterns in everything, so we look at our rejection to date and imagine the same will happen in the future.
Attribution theory looks at how the way we do this affects our levels of happiness. When you imagine one rejection means nobody will ever want you, ever, you are making an unrealistic attribution. You assume one time = always; this is known as stable attribution.
What’s worse, you decide you must possess a rainbow of negative qualities that caused the rejection, and it is your own fault (internal attribution). You might start thinking of all the other aspects of your life in which you’ve been rejected (global attribution).
Psychologists found that people who make global, stable, and internal attributions are more likely to be depressed than those who use the opposite attributions. Those who realize the rejection only applies to the current situation (e.g. this one chick), there are factors beyond their own control, and this particular example is only relevant to the dating scene, are much likelier to be happy.
In moments of self-pity, you will only remember experiences that back up your theory of rejection and ignore any experiences of acceptance. This is known as confirmation bias: we selectively recall information that suits us at the time.
When you find yourself thinking like this, ask yourself what evidence you have that the same thing will happen in the future. Look at all the possible reasons you were turned down. Ask yourself whether it is logical to extend rejection in one sphere (dating) to another (friendship or jobs). Recognizing your brain’s thought patterns will help you to change them.
See the Doors Rejection Can Open
Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in a guarded, secretive and defensive way. They try to be more than human (perfect and controlling) or less than human (losing interest in life or stagnated in some addictive behavior).John Bradshaw
The first experience of major rejection can hurt if we fail to feel a reliable source of love. Perhaps your mother refused to hug you, a classmate didn’t let you join in their games, or a teacher gave you a bad grade. You learn that being turned down is bad. From then you likely tout rejection as a negative experience. Rejection is seen as something to avoid and suffer through.
Imagine you are strongly attracted to one of your friends. One day, you tell them how you feel. Your friend is surprised, and kindly says their feelings for you are platonic. You may feel awful. You put your heart on the line then were shot down.
Your friend gets with someone and, and two years later they get married. However, things don’t go as you expected. After only a few months, it seems there’s trouble in paradise – it turns out your friend is very jealous and possessive when in a relationship (a trait you can’t stand).
Soon after, you meet somebody else. They’re everything you ever wanted in a partner. You wonder why you ever felt so torn up after being rejected by your friend, and you realize your life would be very different if they hadn’t rejected you.
Rejection can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. In this scenario, without it you wouldn’t have met your wonderful new partner and you might be trying to handle your friend’s romantic jealousy. While the sting of rejection can feel bad in the short-term, realize in the long-term, it might be much better for you.
Think about the new possibilities that lie ahead of you following rejection. Move on from what has happened with a focus on what you can do now. One door may have closed, but a hundred doors are waiting for you. You are free to approach anybody else when split from a potential lover, as being turned down for a job means a wealth of new doors are waiting for you to knock.
When you hear the word “NO”, you may shut down. It can feel like a door slamming in our face. Imagine you are trying to win a new client for your business. After wining and dining them and giving your best sales pitch, they still say no. Exhausted, you feel like giving up.
Motivational speakers Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz argue that we think about the word “no” in the wrong way. Instead of setting goals for how many “yes” answers we receive, they say we should aim for a specific number of “no” responses. Not surprisingly, their website is GoForNo.com.
If you tell yourself you will get three “yes” responses in one week, you will probably stop once you have them. If, instead, you tell yourself you won’t stop until you have received two hundred “no” responses, then two things happen:
- You increase the chances of hearing a yes.
- You come to think of “no” as something you want to hear.
Instead of panicking before a potential rejection, you anticipate it, and even feel the same as you would from a “yes”.
Don’t Take it Personally
You’re at a party and don’t know many people. You take a deep breath then approach a group of strangers. They smile and say hello, but you can tell that they don’t want to talk to you. After a few minutes, they make excuses and go their separate ways.
Bonus Tips to Heal the Pain From Rejection
- Go out of your way each day over the next seven days to do a nice act for someone. Bradshaw says, “Giving and receiving unconditional love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness.”
- Focus on compassion for others and loving yourself, rather than hatred.
- Love is healing. Accepting Christ’s infinite source of love helped me heal.
- Brene’ Brown has a good Ted Talk on vulnerability. She says, “If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
- Read autobiographies of famous people you respect. I recommend Open by Andre Agassi. You will frequently encounter stories of hurt. Use the experiences of others to externalize rejection as opposed to internalizing it.
A thousand scenarios play through your head. They’re going to regroup, away from you. They didn’t like you. Perhaps you weren’t charming enough, you left a bad first impression, or your energy in entering the conversation was too below theirs. It might be that your appearance put them off. You talk about it with friends later on and they give you bad advice of “just be yourself“.
Rejection can feel personal. It attacks every part of you. To you, these people were not just walking away from a stranger at a party, but from everything that makes you.
Think about it from the other people’s perspective. Perhaps they didn’t know what to do. They might have been in the middle of a personal discussion, which they didn’t want anyone else to hear. To them, you were a random person they knew nothing about.
When you put your soul into something (like summoning the courage to say hello) and lack the lessons in this article, you can feel your very core is rejected. Again, look at things from the other people’s perspective. A man who turns you down for a date might still be in love with his ex. A company who fails to get back to you might be swamped from identical mail.
It might help to think about the times you have rejected others. Have you accepted every offer of a date or had a long conversation with everyone that approached you? Have you bought something from each salesperson that stopped you on the street?
We reject people all the time, whether it’s ignoring the homeless person begging for change or forgetting to reply to a text message. It can hurt being on that side too! Let it be a lesson of compassion.
Giving and receiving rejection is a natural part of life. The most empowering thing you can do is see you have a choice in how you respond to rejection.
Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"
Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/