Rejection is a part of life. You can't avoid it, whether you're a salesperson with a tough quota or a shy nerd hoping for a date with a supermodel. But you can't let the fear of rejection paralyze you from the start or you'll never get any sales--or any dates.
Like many of us, Jonathan Robinson (now a professional speaker and author) was shy as a young man--painfully so, especially when it came to women. One day in college he decided to do something drastic about it. He handed a friend $50 and told him, "Don't give this back to me unless I get rejected by 10 different women by the end of today."
The idea was to push through his fear of rejection, with money as a motivator. Robinson headed through the campus, looking for women to ask out. The first time, he was barely able to stammer his question, and the woman involved thought he was experiencing a seizure. She turned him down. After a while he grew calmer, and women became less dismissive of him.
Then something unexpected happened: His seventh target agreed to go out with him. Robinson was so surprised he almost didn't have a response, but he managed to get her phone number. Then the next woman also said yes to him.
In all, he collected eight phone numbers, and had to resort to some mildly annoying behavior to reach his quota of 10 rejections in order to get his $50 back. Not only did he get his money, and plenty of dates, he vanquished his fear of rejection.
Would I recommend this exercise for overcoming your fear of rejection? Of course not! But I offer it lightheartedly to show that persistence in facing your worst fears can actually help you -- even embolden you -- to take on bigger challenges, knowing that success is also possible.
Early in my career, when I was struggling to start my company, I made a list of all the accounts I wanted to sell. Some were immediately attainable, and others were far out of my reach. That list was the impetus for my eventual success. It made me really listen to my potential customers and find out what I needed to do to change "no, thanks" to "where do I sign?"
You can overcome your fear of rejection. It doesn't have to be permanent. Instead look forward to facing challenges. It requires reprogramming your mindset. You can't escape rejection. But you can let it go. Practice these exercises:
Mackay's Moral: Don't look at rejection as failure -- think of it as an opportunity to succeed the next time.
- Analyze and evaluate your thoughts. When faced with a challenge, what do you tell yourself? "I'm no good . . . this is too hard . . . I'll never make it . . .?" Don't let negative self-talk sabotage your chances. Take an objective look at the evidence. Chances are you'll realize your worries aren't accurate or realistic. By confronting your irrational doubts, you remove their power.
- Identify realistic fears. Whom do you fear? What might go wrong? After all, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Knowledge is power, so clarify the facts: Who has the power to reject you? Why would that person say no? The answers will help you prepare your best offer, and facing them will help you keep your composure.
- Focus on the moment. Keep your perspective. Rejection lasts only a moment, and once it's over, you'll be able to move on to the next opportunity. Also, overcoming your fears can be an exhilarating experience. Anticipate the rush of tackling the challenge, and you'll be more positive in the heat of the moment.
- "It's just practice." One way to take the pressure off is to treat the situation as a practice session, regardless of the stakes. You still need to prepare and be at your best, but approaching the challenge as a learning experience will relax you. You'll get a better sense of what works and what doesn't--knowledge you can use in the future.
- Be more assertive. Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don't base your self-esteem on their opinions. Learn to express your own needs (appropriately), and say no to requests when you genuinely can't help. People respect peers who stand up for themselves.