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Heartbreak Hotel: How to Turn Rejection Into Triumph

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.

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.