When Others Say No

Unless you’re leading a totally charmed life, you’re going to be rejected. At some point, people will refuse you opportunities, refute your opinions, limit your choices, prove you wrong, steal credit that’s due you, and perhaps even take away a goal or an achievement that’s already or potentially within your grasp.

It’s just an unfortunate aspect of life.

But while you probably cannot avoid some of these painful moments, you can avoid some or all of the debilitating impact they can have on your work and your life.

Here’s how:

Get in Touch with Your Emotions

It may perhaps seem strange that the first step in limiting the damage done by painful moments is to recognize, acknowledge, and experience that pain. Yet this is crucial.

For a variety of reasons, the effort to shut down, deny, or block out emotional pain is much more damaging, both short- and long-term, than the impact of the pain itself.

Whatever you’re feeling as a result of the rejection – sadness, disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, anger, or anything else – the only way out is through.  

The simple truth is that getting in touch with your pain will tend to dissipate these negative feelings and help you get clear of them so you can turn toward a more positive outlook much sooner.

Practice Self-Compassion

After a painful fall, it’s natural to need and benefit from some attention and care. By all means, get this from loved ones, friends, and others – but don’t neglect to get it from yourself. The idea of self-compassion is, at least in part, to help flip the negative to the positive, rather than to stoically suffer.

You can do this by:

  • Treating yourself kindly rather than harshly or critically,
  • Recognizing that bad things can happen to good people like yourself,
  • Forgiving yourself for any errors or weakness you may have shown, and
  • Giving yourself time to heal from any pain or damage you may have suffered through the rejection.

One way to become more accepting of self-compassion: it’s just treating yourself as you would treat a friend who has suffered the same kind of rejection that you have just experienced.

Reframe the Experience

Reframing is a powerful tool for living. In this case, it can aid in getting some benefit from a rejection.

For example, you may be able to reconsider rejection as a sign that you’re stretching the envelope and working at the limits of your capabilities. If everything comes easily to you and you’re never rejected, you may be avoiding challenges that could lead you to greater levels of productivity and success.

In other situations, you may find that getting out-maneuvered by an opponent is a powerful motivator and a worthwhile lesson in how to do better next time. You may recognize that being denied something you’ve tried hard to gain actually opens doors to much better opportunities.

One positive element in nearly every rejection is the chance to learn from it.

  • Did you somehow bring on the rejection? If so, what can you learn so you don’t repeat those mistakes?
  • Did the rejection occur entirely because of external factors? If so, what can you learn about recognizing those possibilities and compensating for them?
  • Did you respond inadequately to a difficult or deteriorating situation? If so, what can you learn about developing a wider range of responses and utilizing the best ones?

It’s also important to understand that a rejection need not dictate everything in your work and your life that comes after it. From an objective point of view, it’s very rare that a single event defines or determines a person’s whole trajectory. You can just learn to extract whatever value the rejection may contain and then let it fade into past obscurity.

Push Forward

As I’ve written many times, what’s most important is not how many times you get knocked down by life, but how many times you respond by getting back up.

After every painful rejection, you have a basic choice: you can allow it to keep you from learning and striving, or you can take some positive value from the experience and move on. You may even use the rejection as a pivot point from which to strike out in a different and better direction.

While you cannot reasonably expect to eliminate rejection from your life, you can make a point to grow from it and become a better person because of it.

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