How To Cope with Rejection

The missing breath, the blood pounding in one’s temples, the terrible feelings of inadequacy—these are all common in the aftermath of a rejection. And there are many kinds of rejection: from not landing the job, to break-ups, to those letters stating thanks, but no thanks. Rejections are inevitable, and they seem to tell us we’re not good enough. For instance, in high school I was palpably awkward, and I decided the best course of action to woo an older boy I was interested in would be to ask him on a lunch date, point blank. In front of all of his friends. I didn’t speak loudly enough for him to hear me the first time, so I was forced to repeat myself, which caused more of his friends to perk up and listen. And the he laughed. He said: uh no, I don’t think so. And I stood there, under the glow of his friends’ grins, unsure of what to say. I wanted to disappear, or at the very least, move to a different country. Since then, I’ve worked tremendously on my social graces, and although I still consider myself to be an awkward person, I can cope with rejection a little more easily. The following are a few pointers on how to do just that.

1. Don’t Take it Personally
This is easier said than done. But sometimes we can get so caught up that initial feeling of failure and inadequacy that we forget that it’s not us as a person being rejected. Rather, in the case of a job, perhaps it’s our resume that wasn’t on point, or perhaps we have been passed over for more nepotistic reasons. In the case of rejection letters following queries for creative projects, it may simply be the whimsical preference of a publication. Even if our work is at fault, this still does not mean we are bad people. In the case of break-ups, so many things can be at play, including the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Often, it is more about them than it is about us. But even if it was our bad habits that drove someone away, it’s still a matter of something we do, and not who we are. For those of us with low self-esteem, myself included, this can be a hard thing to understand. We might have a tendency to measure our worth with our accomplishments and our lack of rejections. But rejections happen to even the most brilliant among us. J.K. Rowling, for instance, had the first volume in the Harry Potter series rejected twelve times before it was finally published. So repeat the mantra: it’s not about me.

These kinds of rejections are not helpful in the least.

2. Get Some Perspective
So we now know that our rejections wasn’t about us being terrible people, but that still doesn’t help that awful feeling that we might as well hang it up and walk away: from our career, from having a love life, or from fulfilling our creative ambitions. After going on several bad dates, it may be tempting to get just a few cats and call it quits. And it’s okay to sulk, for a time. But it’s also important to get perspective. Is a rejection letter from a college going to completely determine one’s quality of life? Is a failed essay going to get one expelled? Is another bad date really going to signify that one deserves to be alone forever? It may be tempting to think so in the moment, but really, all it means is that one particular person said “no” in one particular circumstance. This is not nearly enough to define the course of our lives. We don’t need to be happy about our rejections, but we also have to give them their realistic magnitude, and usually it’s actually next-to-nothing.

Don’t burn all of your artwork because of one critic.

3. Do Something Nice for Yourself
We often pop the champagne to celebrate our successes, but it’s also important to celebrate our rejections. When that silver lining loses its lustre and looks grey, it’s time to do something nice for ourselves. It’s the same principle as seeing a loved one fail: we feel compassion towards them, so we might treat them with their favourite food, a small gift, a friendly pep-talk, or anything that might bring them cheer. We can do this for ourselves. Of course, there is a disclaimer to use some caution, to make sure that our self-care does not result in indulging damaging behaviours: overspending, binge-eating or drinking, or drug use. Treating ourselves should make us feel better afterwards, not worse. (Feeling guilty is usually a sure sign that we may not have our long-term health in mind.)

My favourite thing to do is pay a bubbly visit to Ducky.

4. Do Something Productive with the Rejections
The negative feelings after a rejection have more power if we keep them secret. We can remove some of the hold it has on us by telling others about it. We could swap rejection stories and have a laugh about them (as long as we make sure it’s not at our expense.) We could write about them in a journal. We can also make our rejections tangible, by writing them down and printing them, or using rejection letters sent to us. We can transform these into projects requiring paper maché or origami. Some people even frame their rejections for everyone to see. Stephen King said he kept his rejection letters impaled on a nail in his bedroom. This takes away their power: they become something mundane — a part of our experience rather than an enormous obstacle.

Make yourself a nice cootie-catcher with that expertly worded letter. 

5. Re-Evaluate but Don’t Abandon 
Now that the rejection has lost some of its sting, we can look at it unflinchingly and evaluate its merit. Did the person breaking up with us offer anything that may be conducive to our growth or to further relationships? Did the potential boss offer us any feedback? This is a stage where we can objectively examine the claims made by our rejectors to see if we can use them to our advantage. (Of course, if someone tells us “You are bad, and you should feel bad,” we should probably just disregard them.) We  can tweak our approach but we don’t need to give up. It may just be a few things that we can correct that will make all the difference in the future. But this remains our decision. All feedback we may receive is not equally constructive, and it is up to us to decide whether we want to implement it or not.

I’ll jot down some good ideas in my notebooks, but ultimately I decide if I’m making any changes.

Next time you receive a rejection, make sure to remind yourself that you’re still a good person. Often, the rejection isn’t even about you, anyways. Make sure you stay the course, do something kind for yourself, and take the power out of the rejection by opening up about it. Whatever you do, don’t give up. If you need some tips on tenacity, see how to foster resilience.


How to Talk to Strangers

We’ve all been in a situation which we’re minding our own business, engulfed in our own thoughts (or worries), when someone really intriguing comes along. This person might be wearing an interesting outfit, they might be carrying an amazing book, or they might be hanging out with a really cute dog. How do we make a connection with them without being painfully awkward? Even the most outgoing of us can end up with a foot lodged firmly inside of our mouths. The following is some tips to avoid that unfortunate acrobatic feat.

1. Frequent Areas Conducive to Friendly Chatter
Most of us live far away in both space and time from the great communal bonfires of our ancestors. In fact, many of us journey from lonely one-bedroom apartments, to lonely one-person cubicles with only the human voices on our music playlists to keep us company (and even those are increasingly robotic). The interactions we have in shops are courteous, but usually devoid of any real substance (speaking of robots.) It is therefore a good idea to frequent public spaces, or spaces with an atmosphere conducive to chatter. For students, these places are widely found across campuses in common rooms, foyers, and even hallways. For those of us who don’t attend school (or are too cool for school, perhaps), we might have some luck in coffee houses, hobby stores, parks, or communal areas in libraries. Places where we wait around can also work, such as line-ups and waiting rooms. It is, however, important to respect a person’s space. It would be unkind to follow someone into an alleyway for a conversation (especially while shouting, “But wait, I like your t-shirt!”), likewise to subject a person to soliloquies while they’re using public transportation. They key is not to hold a person captive. There must be an escape route for them, should they want it. Conversations are best when they are mutual.

Parking garages are highly unrecommended places to greet someone.

2. Know Body Language
This tip goes along the same lines as not holding a person captive. We must be aware of our stranger’s body language as well as our own. For instance, we can seem approachable and non-aggressive by keeping our arms and legs uncrossed, by smiling amicably (read: not like Jack Nicholson in The Shining), and by tilting our head slightly to indicate interest. We don’t want to stand too close, touch them, or lick our lips while rapidly raising and lowering our eyebrows (save that sort of behaviour for close friends). Signs to be aware of from our stranger: their arms are crossed, their eyes are darting to the ground or to their phones, they are not smiling or their smile seems forced, they are looking at others around them (possibly for help), or they are giving us a firm and unshakeable middle finger. These are all signs to disengage at once, no matter how neat the person seems.

 And if someone is wearing these, it’s best to leave them be.

3. Offer Compliments
Living in a city, a suburb, or even certain rural areas can lead to a sense of anonymity: everyone is a stranger. We come to feel that it’s advantageous to have our guards up, because there is no way of knowing if someone is friend or foe. It can therefore be beneficial to offer a compliment by way of introduction, in order to disarm someone. The caveat, however, is that the compliment should be genuine. Most people can tell if you don’t really like their purple hair, especially if you immediately follow the compliment with “But why would you do something like that?” Even if the remark is out of genuine curiousity, it usually comes off as an affront to their tastes, rendering them more on their guard than ever. The other caveat is that it is best not to compliment a stranger on their body. People have hang-ups about their bodies. Of course, freckles, scars, and birth marks can be interesting and beautiful, but they may also be something the person is sensitive about. (And while it is nice to compliment friends and family about these things, my be-freckled sister will attest that this can also be annoying.) Furthermore, telling a stranger “you have super nice boobies,” is a tough opener, because where do you possibly go from there?  Basically, we want to find the thing about them that makes us want to reach out, without making them uncomfortable.

 Giving compliments will also avoid resorting to gripping topics like the weather.

4. Ask Questions
We’ve all been in the unfortunate one-sided conversations where a person will yammer on about their current big project, and how successful they already are, and how they own a yacht, and how they are actually seen as a prince in some countries. (No? It must be my unfortunate luck to meet these characters.) The point is, engaging people in conversation is simple, because people love to talk about themselves. If they are carrying something that interests you, such as a specific phone model, a book, a bag from a favourite shop, or sports equipment, then we can ask questions related to these things. If we notice something about their behaviour, (perhaps they are looking for something,) then we can ask them about this. If we see the same person at the same time and place we can allude to this as well (though only if they show recognition as well, since knowing someone’s schedule without their knowing us is apt to seem suspicious.) Getting a person to open up is like most things: we can improve our skills the more we practice. Eventually we develop an intuition as to which topics to pursue and which topics to avoid.

Like maybe not all books are appropriate to open dialogue with.

5. Know When to Stop
Every conversation comes to an end. And if that conversation is with a stranger, it should err on the side of short and sweet. When our stranger begins to shift, then they are likely needed elsewhere, and it’s time for us to gracefully bow out. We can do this by saying “Well, I should be getting back to work now,” or a genuine “It was really nice talking with you.” We can thank them for the chat. We can introduce ourselves if we haven’t had a chance yet, and let them know that we’ll see them around. What we want to avoid, unless the stranger volunteers, is to jump into the promise of being best friends. This means that asking for personal information, unless there is a clear business objective to the exchange, is likely to make the person uncomfortable. We can try this if we see the person on more than one occasion, but it’s important to make them feel in control. Therefore, we should leave our contact information with them, rather than demanding theirs.

 Do not leave your information as such. 

And there we have it: easy ways we can strike up a conversation with just about anybody. If we make a person feel comfortable by approaching them with relevant questions and in an open space, they are likely to respond positively and we may just score a new friend out of the deal. If nothing else, we’ll have had face-to-face contact with another human being and perhaps learned something about ourselves in the process.