Rejection can hurt. There has been some research to suggest that the brain is affected in a similar way by physical pain and by rejection. From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. Our survival back in the day depended somewhat on our ability to work together in social groups. Being rejected by such groups could mean disaster. Nowadays, the ability to deal with rejection and to tolerate and learn from it is an exceptionally important skill.
One suggestion as to why rejection hurts as much as it does is that when we are rejected, we can interpret that to mean that we are not good enough. We are not good enough to be with a person or a group that we want to be with or convince a person of our or our product’s worth. We experience a negative evaluation of ourselves. Thus, we can realise our greatest fears may well be true. The inner voice that says the most horrible things to you when you are at your worst may well be correct. That is what we are terrified of.
However, there is a different way to think about this. Rejection is not really about you. It is about the perception of you, your product or service that the other person has in their head. Their perception is made up of a combination of their past experiences, learned behaviour, personal preferences, emotional linkage and, most of the time, a very limited exposure to you and how you communicate to them.
Let’s go through each one of these. A person’s past experience could make them distrust someone asking them out in a dating sense or any salesperson in a business context. They may well have had an experience in the past where someone let them down so they play it safe by saying no. In terms of learned behaviour, sometimes people find themselves feeling more powerful when they get the ability to say no. It makes them feel more valuable themselves so they reject not because of you but because they have learned it helps them feel better about themselves.
Sometimes a person’s preference is the issue. They don’t like people with brown hair or they don’t like muscular men or sedans or vegan food or whatever it is you are trying to get them to say yes to. The result of the conversation was always going to be no and the only way to change it is to change who you are or what you are talking about.
Emotional linkage means that, over time, they have experienced millions of moments in their life where certain things have affected their feelings and have become associated with those feelings. For example, in a relationship over time, they have been exposed to their own feelings at various points in the relationship so sometimes, they will fall out of love because the negative association to the other person outweighs the positive. This is not necessarily the other person’s fault. It is a shared fault of both parties and that is just the way things go sometimes. People are not left by their partner because they aren’t good enough for them. They are left because their partner no longer has the same feelings that made them want to stay together. This explains why, even when two friends know each other for years, a rejection still is not about you. It is about the chemical of cocktails that have linked feelings for the other person and their preferences for someone that they want to be in a relationship with.
Most of the time, rejection does not happen from people you have known for years or have communicated with for years. It happens after meeting the person a very limited number of times. It could be a swipe on a phone that they reject you with, a no at the door step or a no at an investment pitch. Regardless, everything mentioned notwithstanding, this often means that the other person does not have enough information in their head to say yes to you. Someone saying no to a date is based upon their snapshot look at you on an app or even in real life. It is never about your worth or about how ‘great a catch’ you are. It is about their perception of you. When someone says no to a printer you are trying to sell, it may be that they don’t see the value of the printer. That does not mean the value is not there. It is just they haven’t heard what they need to yet.
What this means is that to get people to say yes to you, your product or service, you need to learn to pay attention to others more. Rejection is a sign that you need to study them more. Understand others, listen to them and focus on them. Know that rejection takes place in their head not yours. You simply get the information from them. Once you do, the next step is to use it to make yourself communicate the message better. Now sometimes the other factors I mentioned might mean the answer will always be no, but the key here is to remember it is not about you. It is about the perceptions of others. Study them and become better at changing them and you will respond to criticism the same way the greatest, most successful people on the planet all do. You will learn, move on and win the next time.
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