Rejection leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, a surprising sensation that shudders through my body. It’s abrupt and unpleasant, no matter how many times I taste it. As a recent college grad on the hunt for my career, I’ve tasted that bitter rejection a lot.
Humans often link rejection with taste; one such cliché is the heartbroken individual eating chocolate ice cream from the container after a break up. We need something comforting and sweet after a bitter end. In essence, a rejection is an end: the end of a relationship, the end of hope for a certain job, the end of a conversation. It’s easy to get discouraged.
Last week, I went to yoga right after receiving another rejection from a dream company for an entry-level job. I love my yoga. The instructor noticed I was not as smiley as usual, and sat down to talk with me. I shared with her that I was down because I had gotten rejected, again, from an employment opportunity I was excited about. She recommended I go home and look up a TED Talk by a man named Jia Jiang who put himself through 100 days of rejection and I am so glad I did!
Jiang created a blog centered around daily assignments he assumed would get rejected, such as asking a stranger for $100 or requesting a “burger refill.” He quickly realized that one word could transform this experiment from a depressing dose of daily discouragements to a learning experience. This word is “why.”
Asking “why?” can help you understand the rejection. It continues the conversation, even if the rejection is still the end of an opportunity. Jiang found that by asking why, he learned that rejections were often spurred by the requester not being able to offer what the rejecter wants.
The second lesson Jiang learned is that if you can address a doubt that an initial rejecter has, you might be able to turn that no into a yes by gaining their trust. If you are able to identify why the person rejected your request, you can show that your thinking is aligned with theirs. When you put yourself into the place of your conversational partner, the partner might in turn see the situation from your perspective and grant your request.
Finally, Jiang draws from the inspirational leaders who have faced rejection. In research his topic, Jiang found that many great people who changed the world and the way we think faced brutal, even violent rejection. Think: Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. These inspirational men, like Jiang, turned rejection into opportunity.
The lesson Jiang does not explicitly state is one of resilience. Resilience is a psychological concept imperative to mental health defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” As Jiang inundated himself to rejection by repeating unlikely requests over and over, he was building up his resilience. In a way, the more he got rejected, the greater his resilience became. He learned not to run away or cry after rejection, but to grow from it. Through resilience, Jiang overcame the bitterness of rejection. Pretty sweet, don’t you think?
With every rejection I face, I can also build resilience. This doesn’t mean the rejection will be less bitter. Instead, each bitter rejection can be complemented by something pleasantly sweet–just like bitter black coffee after a spoonful of sugar. Savor your rejections, maintain your enthusiasm, and sweeten your days with resilience.
I leave you, dear reader, with a short story from my favorite comedian, John Mulaney. High hopes and excitement are met with bitterness.
All gifs were found at giphy.com