So, lately, I’ve been on a TED talk obsession. This is nothing new (to me anyway) – all it takes is one little reminder that TED talks exist and I’m off to the races – watching them during lunch, listening while working out, letting them run in the background while i do somewhat tedious tasks. There’s an absolute wealth of knowledge, experience, and information to be gleaned from listening to normal people – many no more ‘famous’ than any other person, and also many entrepreneurs – share their own life experiences and over-comings for free. Seriously, you can get the same insight on some subjects that you would receive from continuing education and mentor-ship programs at exactly zero cost. Here’s the full catalog on YouTube, if you’re interested.
There’s two recent ones that really stand out to me, “What I learned from 100 Days of Rejection” by Jia Jiang, and “Are you a Giver or a Taker” by Adam Grant. I’m going to take a moment here and talk about the former though.
I Didn’t Think I Had a ‘Rejection Problem’ Until I Watched This Video
It’s true – I do. I think everyone does to some extent (unless you’re a ‘Disagreeable Taker’ maybe). I figured that the feeling that one feels when someone says ‘no’ to you is just normal – part of the process of being human and interacting with others. Jia Jiang, by sharing his own experience with forcing himself into situations where he would be rejected at least once a day for 100 days, made me realize that it’s extremely detrimental to our own existence to feel… well… rejected.
And do I ever suffer from it.
Going into a situation where the answer might be ‘no’ – such as a job interview, asking someone out on a date, adopting a child, or even something as simple (and ostensibly ridiculous) as asking for a ‘burger refill’ (yep, he did that too) often fills us with feelings of nervousness and pre-rejection. I’ll admit, I’m deviating from his talk a bit here, but I think it’s within the spirit, and I believe that the whole point of TED is to spark thought and conversation so, I’ll allow it =D.
What is pre-rejection? I’m not sure – I hadn’t really heard it before I wrote it above. I believe it to be that feeling you get just before you ask a question – or depending on the question – when you even consider asking it. Pre-rejection is steeling yourself up for the ‘no’ that’s inevitable (or so you believe) to come from a situation. Pre-rejection is allowing your nerves and preconceived notions (or perhaps, past experiences) to determine what the outcome of an event is going to be before you’ve even had an opportunity to experience it. Pre-rejection is self-defeating.
Imagine that your child is about to appear in their first play. You’ve missed many other big events that you child has partaken in – awards ceremonies, sporting events, whatever, and usually because they are scheduled during your workday (for some reason. I never said this example was going to make 100% sense). Your child has been going on and on about how excited they are to take on this role, you’ve heard them practicing their lines around the house at night, and you’d really like to be a part of the experience. The only problem is, this play takes place at 9:30 am on a Monday (again, illogical. Run with it). What feelings do you get when you think about asking your boss/manager/overlord if you can take the morning off to see them perform?
The All Important Why
Jia shares, in this video, how the word ‘why’ became incredibly important to understanding, and becoming immune to, rejection. It gives an opportunity to engage with the other person beyond just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The word ‘why’ came up in Jia’s talk twice – once when he asked a random security guard to borrow 100$ (to which the security guard said ‘No. why?’ and Jia just… ran away) and another time when he (Jia) asked a stranger if he could plant a flower in his back yard.
Only, in the second instance, he didn’t run away when the answer was ‘no’ – instead, he asked the homeowner… ‘why not?’
And the man had a very good answer involving a dog. And proceeded to tell Jia to go to his neighbors house who would love a new flower in their backyard.
In the first case, the security guard’s response of why could have led to a ‘sale’ – if Jia had a good enough reason, or just engaged with the security guard, the answer may have turned into a ‘yes’! When he asked why, he got to plant a flower, and had an answer – a completely acceptable answer – as to why he couldn’t plant the flower at the first location – removing any and all doubt as to his own short-comings or failures.
Why All of This Matters
If you don’t engage with the person(s) that are rejecting you, you will begin to believe that you are the problem. Your mind turns it into ‘I’m not good enough for this, I don’t know why I even bother’. Failure to deal with rejection in a ‘good’ manner only leads to a worsening of the problem, and eventual pre-failure (I’m all about these pre-words here today). You become afraid of other’s responses to things, self-conscious, and timid (even if not outwardly so).
How I’ve Seen it in My Own Life
My art. My work. My words.
I hate to share them with people. I think it all stems from when I had to go door to door selling wrapping paper as a kid (not even joking as to the reason). I hated being told ‘no’ but I had to do it anyway. “It’s good for the school”, “It’ll build character”, “Look at the awesome $5 clock radio you could win if you sell 5000 rolls!” are all things I heard (or some variation anyway). And those “nos” were always final – I certainly wasn’t going to ask why, so I moved on to the next house, and received it again.
I’ve always told myself that it’s because I don’t even like my own work (which is often true) but the only way I’m going to improve my own work is to get feedback from others. And I can only get feedback from others if I take the time to share it with them, and engage with them when they give me an answer, be it ‘yes’ or the ever feared ‘no’.
So What Am I Gonna Do About It?
This is simple. No matter the situation, no matter the question:
- I’m going to ask it
- If the answer is no, I’m going to pursue why.
Because when you ask your boss/manager/overlord if you can go to the play, and they say no, there might be a very, very, very good reason. Or they might be a terrible boss/manager/overlord. But either way, you’ll know the problem is not you, it’s either them, or something else.
But What If The Problem Is Me?
If you ask ‘why’ and the answer is ‘because you’, you have a few options.
- Look at the situation objectively.
- If they are correct, and there is a problem, then you have an opportunity to fix it
- e.g. you apply for a job, but lack the credentials. This isn’t a personal failure, it’s an opportunity to improve
- If they are incorrect you can:
- Discuss it with them, and find out if there may be a misunderstanding
- Move on, with the knowledge and understanding that it’s not your own personal failing that’s at issue
In any situation, you can learn, understand, and improve because of it.
Oh, and lest I forget, here’s the video!
Do you have feelings of rejection? Crippling pre-rejection got you down? Think I’m full of crap? I’d love to hear about it – please share ion the comments!