Everybody on planet Earth has experienced some kind of rejection. Whether you’ve been passed over for a job, dumped by your high school sweetheart, or un-followed on social media, you’ve felt it.
But did you know that, scientifically, this pain has a biological root?
According to researchers, when you encounter physical pain the experience triggers two regions in your brain: the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula. These same two areas of the brain are activated when you encounter social rejection.
But as we all know, rejection is a part of life. You can’t avoid it. So what can you do? Here are some of the most common types of rejection along with some advice on how to cope with the feeling of being passed over.
- Being Ignored: The Unspoken Rejection
Sometimes you pour your heart and soul into trying to make a connection in your personal or professional life. And then you hear nothing. Nada. Crickets. Being ignored can sting just as much as being told you’re not qualified for the task at hand. “It makes you feel bad about yourself, and it makes you feel like nobody wants to be around you. It makes you feel angry,” says Geraldine Downey, Ph.D., a professor at Columbia University who studies rejection as it relates to human psychology. It’s easier said than done (believe us, we get it!) but the best thing you can do in this scenario is have high self-esteem. Research shows people with low self-esteem actually feel rejection more deeply than those who have high self-esteem. Even worse, it will typically take those with low self-esteem much longer to get over their setbacks and move forward with their lives. If this happens, then the effects of the original rejection have snowballed. Eventually you’ll find yourself controlled by doubt. Stay humble, but remind yourself of what you’re qualified to conquer. Then go out and take it!
- Terse and Uncaring: The Flat-Out ‘No’ Rejection
People crave closure. It’s why “to be continued” television shows are so popular; people tune in each week hoping to find out how a mystery ends! That’s why the flat-out no isn’t as harsh as being ignored. Getting a response, even a negative one, provides you with some closure. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sting! Many companies and organizations that have to deal with a lot of applications in a short period of time send out template rejection scripts to anyone they turn away. If you receive a notice like this, it can feel impersonal and harsh. Again, it’s important not to get discouraged. The best way to come back from a flat out rejection is to take a step back from your emotions and logically assess the situation. As Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, says, don’t interpret a rejection as a judgment or spiteful critique of your own self worth. Instead, use it to criticize what your weaknesses may have been in your original query. Did your body language make you come across as nervous? Was your pitch too wordy or complicated? Did you misinterpret your target audience? Assess your weak points and attempt to change them. The next time you go up for the opportunity, you’ll be able to test out a new version of your proposition. Sooner or later you’ll find success!
- We Regret To Inform You…: The Nicely-Worded ‘No’ Rejection
Even a polite rejection can knock you back a step. Being excluded from a social group you wanted to be a part of can crush you in the most intimate of ways. And it hurts! In fact, a study done by the University of Michigan Medical School proved that the brain tries to comfort social rejection in the same way it deals with physical injury. But here’s the good news- the team also found that persistence helps ease the pain. The subjects in the study who demonstrated resilient personalities also had higher levels of natural painkiller chemicals in their bodies. If you’ve received a nicely worded rejection, consider trying again. Evert Zelaya, a Program Specialist at UnCollege, explains the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to get comfortable with (and eventually combat!) rejection. In a workshop Zelaya calls Rejection Therapy, the UnCollege team challenges its fellows to go out on the streets and make “audacious asks.” “One woman asked two complete strangers if she could have a sip of their coffee and they said yes,” he explains. As long as the requests are safe and polite, anything goes. Many fellows reported that being rejected eventually became tedious. The more you put yourself out there, the more comfortable you will become with rejection until it no longer affects you negatively.
- Try This Instead: The ‘No’ With Suggestions For Improvement Rejection
This is gold. In some rejection letters, the company or employer will encourage you to fix certain elements of your application and apply again, whether it be to the same organization or to the field in general. If you’ve gotten suggestions in a rejection letter, consider yourself one of the lucky few. These rejections give you a clear-cut blueprint for growth. Study how to better yourself or your product in these particular areas and test our your new version the next time you pitch yourself. If it works, terrific! If not, you know you’re one step closer to figuring out the way to go.
Now that you know how to deal with rejection, go put yourself out there. You deserve to take chances!
To learn more about UnCollege’s Rejection Therapy workshop and other useful resources, check them out here.