BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

There is something worse than rejection. It’s uncertainty.

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When was the last time you experienced rejection? Was it following a job application? Perhaps you put forward a brilliant idea that was ignored or discounted by someone else.

Rejection feels dreadful and most people will do whatever they can to avoid it.

You know the feeling. You are so demoralised and discouraged you don’t want to do anything. Remember? Could anything be worse?

As humans, we are programmed to avoid rejection at all costs. Rejection from the family or the tribe meant almost certain death to our distant ancestors. We have evolved to avoid rejection as a very natural survival mechanism.

How does rejection feel for you?

When we fear public speaking, we fear rejection. When we don’t want to make a sales call, it’s because we are afraid the answer will be ‘no’. Rejection again.  As are the times when we don’t follow up on a job application because while we don’t know the answer, we can convince ourselves it might be ‘yes’.

When was the last time you stopped yourself from putting forward your ideas in a meeting because you weren’t sure they’d be welcome? A classic and typical business example of avoiding the discomfort of rejection.

What could be worse than rejection?

We all know how rejection feels. We don’t want to experience it. We also – usually – don’t want others to experience it. In fact, sometimes we go to the extent of lying so we don’t impose rejection on others.

We want the world to see us as friendly, kind people. Within that hope lies fear of rejection. So instead of telling the truth, we choose to generate some uncertainty.

Here’s a scenario familiar to many of us: You apply for a job, you are interviewed and it goes well. The people seem friendly and they say they’ll let you know. You really want that job and you are feeling good about it. There are other jobs you could be applying for but there was something about this one that makes you hold off on going for the others.

A couple of weeks later, you still haven’t heard, so you call. Only then do you find out that the job has gone to an internal candidate. Your application and interview were great, they say, but you just didn’t have the level of experience of the other person.

What would be your preference now? Would you rather have had a clear ‘no’ immediately, or hear it now? What could you have achieved in the meantime, instead of hanging on thinking the job just might be yours?

This post is a plea for us all to be more honest. With those close to us, with team members, with anyone trying to sell us something.

How to handle rejection

When you have to give an answer to the question of employing someone, buying their product or trying their ideas, there are only three possible responses:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Later

By being honest about your intentions, early, everyone can move on. The first two options are fairly clear. Use option three only if you mean it. In that case, give the other person a set date when you will be ready to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

From dealing with the latest telemarketer to management to parenting, this principle will save time and pain all round.

What do you think?

Do you agree we could all be more happy and productive if we were a little more honest with each other? Next time someone tries to sell you an idea, product or service, will you be able to override your fear rejection and give them an honest answer?

Need some help? Dealing with rejection – from both sides – is a key leadership skill. Click here to see how we can help you understand and develop your leadership strengths.

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