When it comes to dealing with rejection at work, I think the number one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t dwell on it too much. You especially can’t dwell on things that in the grand scheme of things are small. Hindsight truly is 20/20.
So how to deal with rejection at work?
The first thing to consider is to think about the ways you have dealt with past rejections. Think about those times that you were turned down. Really think about the about these past times of getting turned down, how they transpired after those rejections. How do you feel now? I hope your rejections have lead you to some positive long-term outcomes. I’ll go into that later.
Think about how you eventually got over or adjusted to the pain of past experiences.
How do I know the powerful tactics of dealing with rejection at work?
As a business owner, I have the opportunity to both reject people and be rejected.
I’ve been through a lot of rejections myself when starting my business. For my business, I’ve also made an effort to really listen to and respect the opinions of my team. Rejection sure feels a lot better when there is mutual respect. Sometimes, I have to reject my team’s ideas.
I will say this: I’ve always been in business for myself and therefore haven’t lived the life of corporate politics. But I’ve heard plenty of stories. It’s a hotbed for rejection fears.
Rejection can be really mean. It can feel like it’s everywhere in your life. But it doesn’t have to be. It should be constructive. It’s hard to overcome the pain when it hits you. But pain does make it better. Rejection is something that you can strengthen yourself for.
I’d love to take you through some of the powerful tactics I’ve learned when it comes to dealing with rejection.
1. Embrace pain, use it as a tool to become stronger and learn
Knowledge is power. I’ve learned something negative about myself during some rejections, and I’ve felt the pain of each rejection. But honestly, I’ve found of the best way to deal with rejection is to just simply feel the pain, calm down a bit, and figure out how to move on.
Make sure you find out why you’ve been rejected. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s them. Accept the reason, but make sure that reason is on the basis of truth.
2. Show off your strength and openness to people
People respond well to signs of strength. It’s a remnant of our evolutionary past as human beings.
There’s a little story that like to tell about my summer of 2009. This was an important bout of training for me when working with rejection rather than being afraid of it. It was also when I became an accidental entrepreneur…
In summer of 2009, I was sixteen-years-old and I had gotten the idea that I should sell website design services to local businesses. I felt like I had something to prove. And I was determined. I had what was a novel idea at the time but no idea how to sell it. But I had an absurd amount of determination, and that fueled me.
Every morning, I would leave my house at 9:00 AM (the time most local businesses opened up) and visit each individual shopping center. I didn’t have a car, so I walked door-to-door to pitch my website design services to these businesses. It was a lot of effort to get around on foot.
Imagine a sweaty sixteen-year-old who has no idea how to appropriately dress, walking door to door and asking to speak to the person in charge. Meanwhile, I was drenched in sweat because I was walking outside all day. It was an awkward situation every time. I was rejected by many, many local business owners.
But I didn’t care! Well, scratch that, I did care. BUT…
I was learning a lot and I always felt like I was getting closer to the right thing to do. I began picking up subtle cues from the business owners I spoke to. I started to identify what they wanted to hear, and what they didn’t. I also started figuring out what type of clothing I should wear to make people want to listen to me — just by changing my attire alone, I had fewer owners pointing at their “do not solicit” signs.
I didn’t fear rejection here because I knew, deep down, that I was going to find my first customer. The rejections kept happening, but I didn’t take them personally. This was because I knew I was doing something wrong, and there was a fun in figuring it out.
I knew that for every “no” I was hearing, I was getting closer to that first yes. Each rejection made me better at my approach. It was only because of the rejections that I had gotten better at describing what I believed in.
3. Reprogram your mornings
How you start your morning does have a genuine effect on how powerful you feel for the rest of the day. I feel the drive to always reprogram myself if I can. Mornings are important for me because it gives my brain a chance to be at its prime for the rest of the day.
I have programmed myself to have better mornings in general:
No matter if I am at home, staying in a hotel, or even at my father’s house, I make sure that my ideal morning ritual gets done. Immediately upon waking up, before my brain begins racing. Most of the time it’s racing with the day’s activities. But sometimes dealing with rejections myself.
But before I dwell, I immediately jump into the shower. I refuse to look at my phone because the notifications are going to suck me in. Nope, then I’ll blow the most valuable hour of the day.
Getting into the shower is an easy way I can enforce that policy. This is my time, and being in the shower is perhaps one of the only times in a day that I am truly alone. No emails, no phone calls, text messages, notifications, distractions, no other people. Just me and my thoughts.
I can contemplate my previous day’s rejections with a more clear head.
You can also try to build a morning routine for yourself:
4. Give your ego a little rest
People think a lot. We’re trapped in our egos, whether it’s positive or negative. We think about all of the different scenarios, and painfully focus on the most recent rejection.
The tactic that I had used for dealing with rejection is that I let go of my ego. I can do this sometimes. It’s hard to let go of your ego.
We tend to use the word “ego” loosely to describe people that are selfish, or in it for themselves alone. I learned that I had created my own ego unconsciously to act as a barrier to insulate myself from the rest of the world.
It is an unconscious defense mechanism many ambitious, driven individuals are probably prone to. It’s certainly easier to propel yourself forward in the face of major setbacks when nothing is ever your own fault. But in doing so, you are living in “duality”. When living in duality, you are separating yourself from the reality of others and the world around me.
Living in duality creates a lot of pain for ourselves and those around us. When I had a negative, it meant filtering my entire life through a lens of judgment. Things were “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” “pretty or ugly.” But these binary judgments only served to close me off to others.
It’s exhausting, and when I can give myself a break from that and just live in the moment I feel a lot more energetic and just… good.
5. Know that embracing the unexpected can come with pain and triumph
There are people who are very career-focused. They want to pursue a path and they are going to do anything they can to get to it.
A driven-nature can be great, especially if you are working in a field that you’re in love with. But this commitment to a linear life makes rejection even more negative and consequential.
I’ve looked back on my life and have found many unexpected turns. I’m grateful for the rejections that ultimately led me to better decisions.
Ultimately, you’re better off with yourself if you embrace the unpredictable nature of life. You are more malleable yet in control of yourself than you think. The consistent feeling that you are in control and not in control at the same time is liberating.
Direction can be overrated. It’s absolutely a compass for me now, but there was absolutely a time in my life where I just explored a bunch of different options for myself. I had hobbies, which led to passions.
Just start giving new things a try! Play an instrument, make some art. Rejection will sting less when you have more things to care about yourself.
It might sound silly, but I recommend trying to contact your inner-child. I think about myself as a kid, with a voracious desire to try new things without worrying about rejection.
6. Remember that everyone’s got an opinion
And you have your opinions too. Someone rejecting you is just them giving you their opinion. One person’s negative thoughts may be another’s positive ones.
Everyone has their own tastes. So if you have ideas that you want to share that are getting rejected by one, don’t be afraid to tell others. You may even get great feedback. You may also get a new backer.
Don’t be afraid to get feedback, you can learn from this feedback:
7. Think about how you spend your time — what’s the purpose?
Every moment of my life feels like it has a purpose.
That doesn’t mean that every purposeful moment of my life is to fulfill some grand mission either. Sometimes the purpose of doing something is just to make myself happy. And there’s no way I should feel guilty about it.
What do you do with your time? Write it all out. And then write the purpose next to each item. It’ll give you a good sense of what you are really doing with your time.
When you are conscious about every moment you spend, you’ll live a more balanced life. Take a look at this guide to learn more:
8. People move at different wavelengths
I know some people who really fret if they aren’t getting a response from someone.
That feeling of not getting that reply email can really eat away at your soul. And it likely doesn’t matter a lick to the person on the receiving end! Or it does, and they’re just very busy. Maybe they forgot to respond.
Dealing with rejection at work is about adapting to people’s different wavelengths, knowing that you can control them, and just focus on being happy.
9. Adapt the growth mindset
Around thirty years ago, renowned psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck and her team became interested in students’ attitudes about failure. They noticed that some students rebounded, while others seemed devastated by even the smallest setbacks. You can read more about this research in her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success.
From their study, Dr. Dweck and her team could place people into two categories:
Those who have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Fixed mindset people tend to think that whatever abilities they have will go unchanged no matter what they do. There’s no room for self-improvement or new ideas with this mindset.
Those who believe that they are control of their success through learning and hard work. In other words they were open to “growth” opportunities in intelligence (growth mindset). There are countless opportunities to grow and learn. The best of entrepreneurs exhibit the growth mindset.
The interesting part was that Dr. Dweck’s students weren’t necessarily aware of their proclivities towards a growth or fixed mindset. However, she and her team discerned from behaviors such as fearing failure that some people leaned towards fixed mindsets, while the growth-minded individuals viewed failure as a learning experience. Those growth-minded knew they could pick themselves up and apply what they learned to the next endeavor.
I believe that this is the key. You see, if you’re fixed on certain things all of the time, that’s where your life’s emphasis is going to be.
You’re always going to feel stuck in the mud if you’re fixed on your previous failures.
But there’s no time like the present.
In the end, really think about what makes you happy and just do it. Life is too short to dwell on things that don’t really matter!
The Bottom Line
Once you’ve gotten over dealing with rejection, you’ll be an unstoppable machine of a person compared to most of your coworkers.
Don’t forget: Most other people fear rejection too. You’ll have a tremendous advantage.
So start to adapt the tips above and rejection will be in your control.
More Resources About Workplace Communication
Featured photo credit: Kai Pilger via unsplash.com