Being rejected hurts. Sadly, you can’t avoid rejection the rest of your life, but you can learn from it.
You can even improve because you were rejected according to Adam Grant an organisational psychologist and the host of WorkLife with Ted a podcast about how to make work not suck. Listen to the podcast for yourself, it’s got great advice and is told in an interesting and accessible way.
The Best Way to Take Rejection
You can react in many different ways to being rejected. You could cry, you could shout, you could be just brush it off.
Grant says the 2 most common reactions to being rejected are:
- Blaming yourself
- Blaming the other person
Blaming yourself seems like an obvious choice. You didn’t get that job because you aren’t good enough. You didn’t get promoted because you don’t deserve to. You were fired because you’re garbage.
This option is not only hurtful, it’s wrong.
You will only damage your confidence and self-esteem by blaming yourself. You won’t actually learn anything useful.
On to option 2 then.
Blaming The Other
You are good enough, that company doesn’t know talent. You did deserve that promotion over Jeff. You aren’t garbage, the company that fired you is.
This feels much better.
You aren’t to blame. The world is. Screw you world!
Sadly, this option doesn’t help you grow either.
If you never see the part you had in your failures, you can’t learn from your mistakes. Learning from our mistakes can be one of the best ways to improve.
So, How Should You Handle Rejection?
The two options you just read about are only the most common, but not the best.
Grant tells us about 3 ways you can accept rejection, that are much more effective:
- Focus on fit
- Be Self-Compassionate
- Take it in your stride
What If It’s Not The Right Fit?
Do you ever feel your job just isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing?
Fit isn’t something you can see on a job description or point at in the office. Fit has to do with the way you feel about the work you do, the people you work with and the places you work.
A bad fit can be:
- A job that doesn’t let you be creative enough.
- Colleagues who say you’re too quiet, even though you have lots to say, if they’d just let you.
- Being stuck in an office when you love being outdoors and active.
It’s possible you were talented enough for a job or promotion but you just didn’t gel well with that team or in that environment.
You aren’t the problem, your fit is.
There will be plenty of places where you do fit in better, so think about why that job didn’t work for you and what parts did work for you. Then use that information to find a better fit.
Maybe you were to blame. That doesn’t mean you are garbage. People make mistakes, why should you be any different?
If you can learn to be kind to yourself, then making mistakes won’t be the end of the world. You can take the pain, soothe yourself, then learn from it.
Grant tells us about Post-Traumatic Growth, in which we become stronger because of a large failure or trauma we had in life.
This happens when we have the attitude of “I survived that, so I can definitely survive this“. Like you managed to write that dissertation despite still doing all your other subjects at uni, so you can definitely get through this project at work.
Take It In Your Stride
There are 2 approaches to taking rejection in your stride.
See Yourself as More Than Your Job
First, you can realise that the person rejected only one part of you.
You aren’t your job, or your painting or your dating profile.
You are made up of many different parts.
If you consider yourself a husband, father, surfer, knitter and accountant, then when someone doesn’t like your knitting, they have rejected 20% of you at most. That means 80% of you is left unscathed, which hurts a lot less than 100% of you being rejected.
Remember You Still Have Fans
The second way is to realise that one person rejecting you isn’t everyone rejecting you.
There could 500 people who hate your cooking but there could be 500 or 5,000 people who love your cooking.
Unless your contribution to the world is child-murder, you are unlikely to be rejected by everyone. Take comfort in knowing you still have some fans.
Please let me know in the comments below if this has helped you think differently about rejection.