Whether it’s in our professional (for a job or for a promotion) or personal life (by our significant other or a prospect), being rejected sucks. It’s hard not to take it personally because it puts our ego on the line. My, mine’s been bruised so many times I’ve lost count! Hate it or love it, it’s an inevitable part of growing up.
I used to get frustrated when someone would tell me no, especially when their reason didn’t make sense to me. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to know why, and other times, you just have to carry on without closure. People say no for different reasons and it’s healthier to focus on the only thing we can control – our reaction.
So, I’ve learned how to deal with the word no through a one-month rejection challenge. Basically, I intentionally put myself in situations where people were likely to reject me. For four weeks, I did something outside of my comfort zone that forced me to go talk to people.
Week 1 – I invited strangers out for coffee.
Week 2 – I volunteered to speak at a workshop in front of a big crowd
Week 3- I asked my network for help
Week 4 – I competed in a poetry slam.
The outcome? 2-3 people accepted my invite. The audience at the workshop was really supportive and gave me some great feedback. Most people in my network didn’t end up helping me, but a few of them did, and I didn’t win first place in the poetry slam but made some great friends that night.
Here are 3 important lessons I learned from doing this one-month rejection challenge:
There is ALWAYS a silver lining
I wanted to win first place at the poetry slam, but that night, I gained something much more valuable – public speaking skills and a few more people in my network. You’ve heard the cliche, “When a door closes, another one opens” and probably rolled your eyes at it, but it’s true. Sometimes, you work hard for something only to find out it’s not what you really want. Your dream company might not end up being the right cultural fit after all and that’s okay. The important thing is to learn to look on the bright side because there is always a silver lining. ALWAYS. Even when it doesn’t immediately manifest, it’s still there. Also, just because it’s not something tangible (say a job, an opportunity etc.) doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. Self-awareness is key and every experience – at the very least – serves the purpose of providing more of that.
Help is always within reach – an email or call away
After doing the rejection challenge, I realized that I used to underestimate how much people were willing top help. Truth is, receiving help is simply a matter of asking. You might feel weird about it like you’re bothering them, but it can be worth the interruption. You might find that you’re not alone in a particular situation. At any point in time, there’s always a community of people experiencing the same difficulties as you and coming together usually just takes one person reaching out. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If someone says no, chances are, four other people will say yes. You just have to find them.
Take it from me, I used to waste time thinking of multiple ways to solve a problem – when teaming up with someone would’ve been more efficient. Be willing to contribute to other people’s growth too. Just remember, together is always stronger than alone.
Rejection is rarely personal
You might kill yourself trying to figure out why you didn’t get a job – thinking maybe you shouldn’t have worn that blazer to the interview or shouldn’t have asked that question – when the company could have just not had the budget for it anymore. People are weird. They harbor biases and fears that influence the way they interact with others. And this is why you shouldn’t assume every rejection is your fault. This attitude can not only damage your self-esteem, but it can make it harder to deal with the many instances of rejection.
Sure, you can think about what you’ll do better next time, but just know that rejection often has to do with factors outside of your control. So it’s best to focus on your circle of influence (as Stephen Covey from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would say) – your thoughts, attitudes and actions.
Doing the rejection challenge was an incredible learning experience. Truth is, it was more about me building up the confidence to put myself out there than it was about these people’s reactions. It desensitized me to the effect of the word no. I used to hate it, but now it’s my motivation.
So, are you up for a challenge?