Heartbreak Hotel: How to Turn Rejection Into Triumph

Creative Commons License photo credit: The Rocketeer

Whenever I think of rejection, I associate it with Mr. Sweaty-Nervous guy asking out Ms. Popular and getting laughed at. But rejection comes in many forms, and isn’t just limited to the stereotypical snubbed prom invitation. You can be rejected in other areas like work, friendship, and even rejection of ideas.

Nobody likes being shot down for any reason. But unfortunately, it’s a fact of life. Just like failure is an incredible learning tool, rejection can be a great way to really see our flaws. Just not a very fun way. Here are some ways to deal with being rejected, and how to actually use the experience as a learning tool so that next time it won’t happen.

Learn from your mistakes. This is the best part of being rejected (if there is such a thing). There is no education like a little crash ‘n burn. If you can pinpoint what went wrong, you’ll know what not to do next time. Teddy Roosevelt sums this up nicely: “There is no effort without error and shortcoming”. You’re going to fail. You’re going to be rejected. It’s what you do next that’s important.

Develop some thick skin. There is no better time to develop some thick skin than after a rejection. Instead of curling up into the fetal position, sucking your thumb and vowing to never go outside again, put a little swagger in your step and lift your head high. While rejection is an incredibly personal thing, making it as impersonal as possible is sometimes the best solution.

Learn how to laugh it off. Laughter is the best medicine (just ask Patch Adams). It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll have a rejection for the smallest, most obscure reason (ie. someone didn’t like the collar on your shirt, so you weren’t hired). At this point the only thing we can do is to laugh it off. An easy way to do this is to visualize the situation as a spoof on Saturday Night Live. Works like a charm.

Think of it as a trial run.
There’s no need to think of it as rejection, but rather a trial run. There’s going to be more opportunities. And who knows, it may work out better that the rejection came now, instead of down the road. Don’t ever take the mindset that this was your last chance. Plenty more will come.

Ask why. How can you learn if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong? Just ask politely what could have been different about the way you presented yourself, and take note. If the other party is truly honest with you, they’re essentially giving you golden nuggets.

Now, don’t confuse this step with emotionally hounding someone for the reason why they broke up with you. Not a good idea.

Look for trends. If you’re starting to see similarities in the way you’re being rejected, look for some trends that might explain why. These will lead you to valuable clues that can turn your rejection into future successes.

Give it some time. It’s common after a rejection to want to make changes and fix whatever it was that was turned down. We turn frantic, and want to quickly make the embarrassment and pain go away. Just take a long breath, and let your thoughts marinate for a bit. Remember, time heals all wounds. Nothing cures a good snubbing like a few months time.

Reflect without obsessing. While reflection is crucial to understanding what went wrong and how to fix it, it’s important not to get consumed by the event. Try (yeah, it’s hard) to be as detached from the event as possible, and view it as analytically as possible.

Give yourself kudos for trying.
You put your neck out there. At least you made the effort and tried, which is plenty more than most people can say. It takes a lot of courage to put your ego on the line and shoot for something, knowing full well it might get the thumbs down.

Try, try again. Once you know what you were doing wrong, fix it and try again. If your sales pitch was a bit pushy, dial it down and try it on another party. The only way rejection is truly bad is if you don’t learn from the mistake and try again. And again. And again, if necessary. Need an example?

Also: ZenHabits has a great post on how to flip karma to your favor. Great stuff.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Roseline Phahlane February 26, 2017, 10:28 am

    There are different seasons in life. Sometimes we find ourselves in icy cold seasons of rejection. As I mature in my life journey, I have learnt to embrace any setback or rejection as a blessing in disguise. Maybe I am a bounce back quickly kind of a person and compare myself to an oak tree that only bends when there’s a storm and snap back after.

    I’m human just like any other, we all have that trait when we are born, it’s a matter of tapping into it every time we are rejected.

    I love the Japanese Proverb, ” Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

    We should all learn that life is like cotton. We don’t have to make it heavier by sinking it in the waters of sorrow. But we should make it lighter by letting it blow in the wind.

    Life is not meant to be a bed of roses, so any rejection should make us strong in character.

    What doesn’t kill us makes us strong.

    Thumps up for an inspiring article!! I loved it!

  • Ange Recchia April 13, 2008, 6:39 am

    Rejection can cause us to become victims in our own story and unless we move on, it can really run our lives. Thanks for your list. I found it very comforting to know there are some other things I can try that I wasn’t already aware of. Great post!

  • El March 28, 2008, 10:18 am

    This all sounds very reasonable and makes perfect sense, but it’s darned hard to do! How long does it take for the pain to leave? How do you forge ahead while you’re still in pain? How do you deal with being reminded of your failure every day?

  • DantheMan March 21, 2008, 11:16 am

    Great article! Reading it, I was reminded about my own recent experience, one that I achieved by following some advice from friends / mentors similar to this. Last year, I applied to six graduate schools and got rejected from every single one! So I gritted my teeth, followed some of the advice in this article, sucked it up and applied this year to eight schools. Two days ago, I found out I got into my first choice :)