Rejection, or “I Thought I Was Doing a Great Job”

(Blog co-authored by L.E.T. Master Trainer, Dr. Bill Stinnett)

“What could I have done differently? Is something wrong with me? I really thought s/he liked me.” Everyone of us has dealt with rejection many times in our lives – not getting jobs we want, not being accepted to universities we want to attend, not getting new clients we pursue, and the like. And as we all know, rejection is painful – it hurts. When we experience rejection, what’s important is how we choose to interpret the rejection and how we choose to deal with it. Because we’re already feeling vulnerable, it can be easy to blame ourselves. We might figure that the rejection is a sign of a flaw in our personality – something that’s deep-seated and we can’t be fixed. The latest rejection is simply more evidence of that flaw.

We tend to take a leap and generalize from the experience: “He didn’t call me after what seemed like such a great interview – maybe I’m not qualified after all.” “My profile has only been viewed eight times in a week – this is never going to work.”

We try to become someone we think other people will like – we try to change who we are, we become inauthentic, not real. For example, we feign interest in sports or theater just to spend time with that potential client. We may predict our future based on the rejection and expect to be turned down. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become shy, downplay our strengths, withdraw into ourselves, question ourselves – all in an effort to avoid being rejected and hurt once again. Of course, if we want to shine at that next interview, those are the worst possible things to do.

Interpreting Rejection

Even though it might not seem like it at the time, we have a choice about how to interpret rejection. We can consciously choose either to let it get us down and make ourselves feel miserable or we can use it as an opportunity to learn from the experience and move on. This is, of course, easier said than done.

conversation manager interpret rejection leadershipEvery time you start up a conversation with a potential new client, or a new manager, you put yourself out there. You take a risk. You know that every job you have ever had and every line in your resume is being evaluated and you know that there is a very real possibility of being rejected. So, assume you do get rejected. Now what?

First, acknowledge to yourself and accept that you feel rejected, you feel hurt; don’t try to deny it. Denial won’t make the feeling go away. Acknowledging that you have bruised or hurt feelings is the first step in helping to dissipate them. But it’s equally important not to dwell on them – don’t get stuck there.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there anything I said or did that I really don’t believe or value?
  • Was I honest with myself?
  • Did each of us have and show real interest in getting to know the other?
  • Did I listen with interest and empathy to the other person?
  • Did I express my ideas, opinions, and beliefs clearly?
  • Did we have a genuine back and forth exchange between us?

Honestly answering these questions can help you discover whether there is something you might want to change in yourself – to become more your real self. Or you might realize that the conversation was more or less one-way – one of you did a lot of talking and not a lot of listening. If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, it is probably out of your hands and it is time to move on.

If you were your real best self and there was true dialogue between you – and you never heard from them again – the chances are that the values, interests, beliefs, likes, dislikes of you and the other person don’t match. Or the “chemistry” (which cannot be manufactured!) was missing for him or her. No matter how important that assignment or that new job may have seemed, it may be that it was just not right for you.

Try to stay away from those self-destructive and irrational thoughts that sometimes plague all of us, “It’s the end of the world if something goes wrong – like not getting that job (The world goes on). I should be perfect (Guess what? You’re not. Neither is anyone else). I’m just like that (Everyone can change).” Even if it was you who messed up, that was then and this is now. Move on, one step at a time.

In short, the other person (or company) simply realized before you did that the two of you weren’t a match. It could have gone the other way. You might have rejected him or her (or it). When you choose to look at “rejection” this way, it takes away some of the sting and allows you to have a true learning experience and ultimately, lets you move on. That lets you spend more time on those things you need to be doing to get ready for that next interview or that next performance review.

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