One of the key elements of living a meaningful life, or as we call it, The OPA! Way life, is learning to be resilient. And one of the key elements of being resilient, as well as of building resilience, is knowing how to deal with rejection.
Rejection is becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. Take dating, for instance. It used to be that we could be rejected maybe once or twice a year; but now, we have speed dating where we can be rejected every five minutes, or on-line dating where we can be rejected in an instant! With social media, feedback is instantaneous, and with it comes an increase in the likelihood of rejection. In the workplace, learning how to deal with rejection is a critical skill that all of us need to develop and maintain.
Importantly, rejection is a two-way street: we have been rejected by others and we, in turn, have rejected others. We have to expect rejection in our work lives since work is a collaborative effort, a trade-off—we can not expect everyone to just blindly follow our way or accept all of our ideas. We can not simply conclude that a person who rejected our idea is "out to lunch" or "doesn't get it" because it begs the question, if we reject someone else's idea, are we "out to lunch" or "don't get it?" Recognizing this point will help us become more sensitive to whom and why we are rejecting, as well as increase our capacity and, as a result, our resilience, to deal with rejection that comes our way.
In Elaine's recent TEDx talk in Hong Kong (see below), she shared the insights she gained by researching rejection. She discovered three common responses to dealing effectively with rejection in a wide variety of personal and work-related situations. Taken together, these three "responses" can be viewed as practical guidelines for building personal resilience.
The first response or guideline is to Reflect. Reflect on why the rejection may have happened. Was it you or your approach? Did you not give the right information that the other person needed in order to make a decision? Was it a timing or resource issue? Reflecting on why the rejection happened is a valuable initial step to giving you insight about the other person's reaction because, in the final analysis, "it's not all about you!"
The second response is to Reboot. Rebooting essentially means to start over, hopefully trying a different approach or offering new information in order to convince the other person(s) to agree with you. It may also be helpful to sell parts of the idea at first, versus trying to sell the whole concept or program all at once. This will help lower the risk of accepting your new idea and lessen the complications arising from implementing it.
Realistically, others may change their mind and decide to support you...or they may never change their mind. At this point, it's important to move to the third response, Reject. By this we mean that it's important to understand that everyone is in a different "space" and, in some cases, no matter what you say or do, they will always reject you or your ideas. In this regard, some people strive for safety and predictability, so your new idea or proposition may seem too "risky" to them. Others strive for creative freedom and your proposal might be too mundane or out of character for them.
Understanding the motivation of others is key to knowing when you should keep trying to connect with them and keep selling your idea, or when you should go back to the drawing board to develop a new idea or when you should simply walk away.
By adopting a mindset that gives you permission to "reject rejection" after following the previous two steps (i.e., Reflect and Reboot), you ensure that you don't become a prisoner of your own thoughts while, at the same time, open yourself up to new opportunities to connect meaningfully with others. (The "O" in The OPA! Way)
Learning how to deal effectively with rejection strengthens our sense of self and builds our resilience when confronting life's challenges, both in our personal and work lives. In turn, this simple mantra—"Reflect, Reboot, Reject"—when put into practice, helps us live and work with more meaning.
Drs. Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon, are meaning experts and the co-founders of The OPA! Way® paradigm of "Living & Working with Meaning" and the OPA! Center for Meaning in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA. Pattakos is the author of Prisoners of Our Thoughts, and Dundon is the author of The Seeds of Innovation. They have co-authored a new book on The OPA! Way (forthcoming).
[Image: Flickr user Mark Probst]