Rejection — the nine-letter word that can take us from rainbows and sunshine to utter devastation just like *snap* that. So what can you do in the face of dismissal? How can you learn how to deal with rejection?
The good news is, there are ways. And this mini guide can help you navigate the complex emotion that comes with getting turned down. Here’s how:
- 5 Dos on How to Deal With Rejection
- 5 Don’ts on How to Deal With Rejection
- How to Define Rejection on Your Own Terms
It’s an inevitable part of life, but it’s not the path to a dead-end road. Rather, it’s an opportunity. All it needs is a shift in perspective.
5 Dos on How to Deal With Rejection
For sure, getting turned down can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and at times, downright miserable. But the truth is, it’s part and parcel of our human experience and at some point or another, we have to learn to handle rejection.
So here are five dos to help you.
1. Do acknowledge what’s been said
When someone sends something your way that sounds an awful lot like criticism or insult, reply with: “Thank you for sharing that.”
“Because ‘thank you for sharing that’ is saying that’s your opinion,” says Marisa Peer, world-renowned therapist, in one of the lessons on her Uncompromised Life Quest on Mindvalley. “You’re allowed to have it but I’m allowed to not let it in.”
For example, say you’re at a job interview and the hiring manager is a narcissist. They highlight your lack rather than seeing how you can fit into the company. One of the best ways how to deal with rejection from a job is by responding, “Thank you for sharing that.”
You aren’t voicing your agreement. Nor are you issuing an apology. Instead, you’re simply acknowledging what the other person has said.
2. Do ask them to repeat it again
This might sound counterintuitive because no one wants to be negged once, let alone twice — and voluntarily. However, according to Marisa, saying to the person, “I missed that; would you say it again?” will often stop your would-be criticizer in their tracks.
Take dating, for instance. Disagreements and arguments are bound to happen in relationships. And if you find yourself in a situation where your partner is putting you down for something, say, “I didn’t get that. Could you repeat it?”
“Usually, they won’t say it again because they know that you’re going to be on them,” she explains. The more likely reaction will be a doubling back on their words as they backpedal to amend their criticism.
3. Do understand the power of “yet”
A three-letter word but packed with so much punch. “Yet” (or “not now,” as Jay Fantom prefers) is based on the idea that you’re on a journey of self-evolution where learning never stops.
Take it from Jay, founder and host of The Story Box, who knows rejection like the back of his hand, having been turned down interviews for his podcast early on. However, with the power of “yet,” he’s been able to get them on the show later on.
Let’s look at college applications, for instance. Many of us dream of going to a certain school, but there’s always that chance of not getting in. And “yet” is a great way to learn how to deal with college rejection — you may not get in now, but who knows, one day, you’ll find yourself there for an entirely different (and perhaps, better) reason.
“Because someone said ‘no,’ you got to turn it into a ‘not now,’” he says in an interview on Selling With Love (previously known as Superhumans at Work, a Mindvalley Podcast).
The power of “yet” is a subject extensively researched by psychologist Carol Dweck. In her TEDx talk (which you can watch below), she highlights that those who don’t view the world in “yet’s” see situations as tragic, catastrophic, and dead ends. However, those with the mindset of “yet” understand that they’re on a learning curve, allowing them a path into their future.
4. Do be honest with yourself about how you feel
Rejection can make you second-guess yourself and your whole belief system. So it’s important to take a moment (or a few) to evaluate how it made you feel.
One study published in Science looked at why rejection hurts. The researchers found that many of the same brain regions are activated when dealing with rejection, such as when you feel physical pain.
“What you’ve got to understand, and what’s helped me, is don’t beat yourself up constantly,” says Jay. “You’ve got to be kind. Otherwise, you’re going to fall flat on your face and you don’t know how to get up.”
So no matter if you’re learning how to deal with rejection from a crush, a job, or whatever else, it’s important to acknowledge how you feel. And as you do so, you can then decide what you want to do with it.
5. Do remind yourself of your “why”
A life wandering aimlessly is a life without a purpose. Your “why” promotes your sole reason for being present in this existence.
When rejection pushes you down, like a bully shoving a kid in the locker, you can take a step back and see that you are destined for more.
“That is the core. That is the essence,” Jay says. He adds that reminding yourself of your “why” bolsters your self-concept. It’s a part of self-care. And it gives you the drive to keep moving forward.
5 Don’ts on How to Deal With Rejection
When we’re children, rejection might take the form of being excluded from a game of tag on the playground. When we’re teenagers, we might face the realities of dating and getting dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend. And when we’re adults, it could be being fired from our jobs.
So when you’re seeking how to deal with rejection, keep these five don’ts in mind.
1. Don’t react
So many of our perceived rejections don’t need to be taken personally. Granted, some rejections are slanted as personal attacks, but not nearly so many as we assume.
It just might be they’re giving suggestions that, to you, sound tone-deaf. For instance, “I just wanted you to know that your pitch was so boring so you could actually get better” or “I thought you should know you really suck at presenting, so you can maybe get some handy hints.”
As Marisa says in her Mindvalley Quest, “Weirdly, in their own way, they think they’re being helpful.”
And she recommends that instead of calling them out, ask, “Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?” you’ll likely be surprised to find that much of the time, the answer is: “no.”
2. Don’t take it personally
Let the person that’s bothering you know that you understand they’re being critical but that often, the most critical people reserve their harshest criticisms for themselves.
“[Rejection] is not going to stop your life,” says Jay. Instead, it’s there to help you move forward. So when you’re faced with someone who’s overly critical and rejects you, remind this person that they don’t have to be mean or harsh — most especially not with themselves.
Everyone is just trying to do the best they can. And we can support each other along the way much more effectively by offering constructive guidance instead of harsh criticism.
3. Don’t get hung up on “what if”
What if…? — That question often triggers negative emotions.
“What if I did it this way?” or “What if I loved them more?” keeps you in the past and could possibly lead to different fears, like the fear of intimacy or fear of not being liked. Additionally, “What if it goes wrong?” projects you to a place that hasn’t happened (and probably won’t happen).
Que sera, sera, as the saying goes. Whatever will be, will be. And according to Jay, it takes patience.
“It’s all about time,” he explains. “I say to people all the time, consistently practice patience with prayer and perseverance, and you will get through.”
4. Don’t forget to be grateful
Someone turns down your request for help or you’ve been jilted at the altar — regardless of the “size” of rejection, the stab can still impact your self-worth. And this circles back to your “why.”
One way to do so is through gratitude. In fact, research from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, shows that this mindfulness practice can greatly affect your brain and improve your mental health. Their results found that when gratitude is practiced daily, it boosts serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that are responsible for our “feel good” emotions.
Moreover, it helps lower stress levels, improves mood, and builds resilience. As talk show host Tavis Smiley once said, “Sometimes, rejection in life is really a redirection.”
5. Don’t let rejection in
Whether we like it or not, we will face people, life events, and circumstances that make us feel excluded, dismissed, alienated, and not good enough. And when someone intentionally tries to hurt our feelings, it’s easy to reciprocate.
That, however, can hurt you, according to Marisa. Her advice? Choose not to let rejection in.
You acknowledge that the person has their own opinion. However, you aren’t going to let what they think to change the way you feel.
“When you choose [not to let rejection in,” says Marisa, “it changes everything.”
How to Define Rejection on Your Own Terms
A massive part of how to deal with rejection is learning how to define it on your own terms. There are a lot of unpleasant emotions that often accompany getting turned down, such as:
With this arsenal of challenging emotional experiences, the reaction that ensues is often quite negative. Here are a few examples:
He criticized my outfit. Do I really look that bad?
They laid me off from work. Maybe I wasn’t doing a good enough job.
My friend won’t answer my phone calls. I must have made them angry.
Often, the uncomfortable emotions we feel bombarded by after rejection are heavily tied to our perceptions of the event. Looking at the examples above, you’ll see a pattern: event A has happened; therefore, conclusion B must be true.
But what we have to remind ourselves of in moments like these is that we can alter our perception of what’s happening around us to lessen the blow rejection attempts to impart.
Maybe there’s a good reason your friend hasn’t gotten back to you yet. Perhaps you were laid off for budgetary reasons. Or maybe your coworker commented about your outfit, which you interpreted as insulting.
We often take things personally when in reality, the circumstances and events that affect our lives really don’t have anything to do with us — or, at least, don’t have anything to do with who we are as human beings.
When we learn to define rejection on our own terms, in our own way, we can begin to dismantle the difficult emotions that so often arise when we feel rejected.
It’s like what Jay Fantom said:
“Ultimately, you’ve got to understand that it will be okay. If you understand that you, yourself, are a valuable human being, the rejection should never, never define who you are.”
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- TEDxTalks. (2014, September 12). The power of yet | carol S dweck | tedxnorrköping. YouTube. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-swZaKN2Ic ↩