A few months back I was heading up to Sedona for a relaxing girls weekend with one of my best friends and fellow entrepreneurs.
As we drove out of Phoenix, the saguaros first gave way to green mesas and then towering red rocks and, as it often does, the conversation turned to our businesses.
We puzzled, pondered, cracked ourselves up and shook our heads as we discussed our daily challenges, purging them before the special energy of the vortexes and the soon to be consumed bottle of Red Zin took our minds to total chill mode.
As we neared the end of our debrief, I was hit by a sudden burst of inspiration. I turned to my friend and with a wry tone and a sparkle in my eye said…
“Oh and don’t even get me started about the bludgeoning stab of someone unsubscribing from my newsletter!”
She turned to me incredulously.
“I was just about to say that!!” she exclaimed. “That is so painful! Why is that?”
How fascinating that something so small, so innocent as an “unsubscribe request” could take two strong, confident, seasoned business people and bring them to their knees.
I know we are not alone.
You may not have a newsletter but perhaps you make your living selling, or maybe you are seeking approval for an important project at work or perhaps you are just looking for a date!
And if that weren’t enough, with all the wonders of technology, the internet, and social media we have the potential to be rejected 24/7 by people half way around the world that we haven’t even met!
Pretty much anyone with a computer and an internet connection has suffered through the confusion of an unanswered email.
“Whoa! Don’t they like me any more? I thought we had something but maybe I was wrong”
(I had an entire long distance romance implode because of this very thing.)
For the Twitter "tweeps" you may find yourself dealing with the occasional “unfollow”.
And for all you Facebook friends we have the unanswered or denied friend request. Or the heart-stopping shock of an “unfriending”. NOOOOOOOO!!!!
The faces of “rejection” are many and varied and none of us are immune to its sting.
While it may be tempting to hide out and avoid all human contact to avoid the immanent rejection, this will likely leave you jobless, sale-less, loveless, friendless, with limited possibilities and an ever shrinking world.
The alternative of course is to toughen that skin, flex those resilience muscles and get a new take on rejection.
So let’s get to it!
1) “No” does not mean “you suck!” – Stop reading between the lines
One of the reasons we are so rejection averse is because we often take someone’s “no thank you” and add elaborate embellishment.
For instance: if we go back to my newsletter story, I was taking the words, “Unsubscribe request” and somewhere between the words on the screen and my brain I created an fascinating interpretation that went something like this…
What I Added
“I don’t like you! You provide nothing of value. I think you are a terrible coach and you just plain annoy me!”
Isn’t that rich?!
Now you try it.
When someone says “no” to your product or service do you take that as a rejection of you?
When your boss declines your idea do you give up, certain that no idea will ever be accepted by this killjoy?
When the guy (or gal) says “It’s not working for me.” Do you extrapolate that out 50 years to you sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair sad and alone?
Stop trying to read between the lines my friend. I am willing to bet that no one has ever come right out and said….
“Hey, I just want you to know I REJECT YOU!!!!”
Let’s face it, it doesn’t happen so let’s leave story time for late night reading and when it comes to human interaction just let a “no” be a “no”.
2) It’s Not About You
It’s not about you. Really!
The “No, I don’t want any”, the unanswered email, the “unsubscribe” or the “unfollow’ is much more likely about that other person’s time, need for organization, personal preferences or cluttered inbox than about anything that has to do with you.
We are all just trying to get our jobs done and make our lives work and that means saying "no" to some things and "yes" to others – ending one relationship so another more suitable one can be found, vetoing one idea so that a more effective solution is coaxed into discovery.
It’s not personal.
Let me illustrate with a little scenario that I like to share with sales people and daters alike.
The Orange Shirt VS The Blue Shirt
Let’s imagine that you sell t-shirts.
You have blue shirts and orange shirts.
Some people are going to prefer blue shirts and some will prefer orange, that’s just how it is.
If someone prefers a blue shirt, should the orange shirt feel rejected?
Should the orange shirt try to convince the blue shirt people that they really need an orange shirt but they just don’t know it?
Should the orange shirt berate itself for not being good enough or for not being the right color to be chosen?
Of course not. Blue shirt people are going to like and purchase blue shirts and the orange shirt shouldn’t bat a sleeve at that because there are orange shirt people out there who are seeking and prefer orange shirts.
In the end it all works out. Everyone receives the shirt that lines up with their unique preferences and the orange and blue shirts find loving homes with their rightful owners.
Decode the shirt thing and the point is, just because someone doesn’t want to buy your sprinkler system doesn’t mean they don’t like you. It could mean they don’t have a lawn.
3) Rejection Is Redirection
Perhaps the most hopeful and enlightening piece of advice I can give on the subject was shared by a friend who attended an Anne Albers seminar.
Her advice on rejection?
“Rejection is Redirection.”
Simple, succinct and brilliant!
From this perspective, rejection is a gift, taking unsuitable clients, suitors, and ideas out of your life so that you can focus on those who are a match and the concepts that will go the distance.
Which brings us back to the “unsubscribe”.
I have found peace with it. I have total faith that the people who are supposed to be on the path with me will be, that those I am meant to serve, our paths will cross and that those who are not a fit or who are ready to move on, they can do so freely, leaving me with a community who is ready for and interested in my message at any given moment in time.
Feels good. Glad you are here. (And if this gives you the final permission to unsubscribe without worrying about hurting my feelings, have at it 😉 )
Notice where you are bending yourself in fear of rejection…
Notice where you are creating interpretations that make a “no” more than it really is.
Notice when you are taking someone else’s preferences and making them a statement about you and what is wrong with you. Try creating a new interpretation for their choice that could foreseeably be the very best thing for all parties.
And finally, make friends with your “nos”.
If someone removes themselves from your friend list,
doesn’t want to date you,
declines your proposal
or isn’t interested in what you are selling,
consider it a gift. A cosmic redirection to better things for all.
May all your rejections be gentle and may you always have the courage to step out into the world to weather another hard won “no”.