How to Handle Rejection

In this life one of the unescapable truths is that, be it a stranger, a partner, a friend, colleague, or family member, we all in our personal and professional relationships must handle rejection to some degree. I'm not just talking "I asked her on a date and she said no" rejection, or even "He told me he didn't want to be friends anymore and we haven't spoken since", but rejection ranging all the way from those more extreme cases to "She didn't like that idea", "They backed out last minute" or, "I'm just not feeling like they're listening to me".

Humans are social creatures and even the most independent and self sufficient of us need a certain level of validation and support from those we hold close, and it can be challenging when we don't feel we are having our needs met or we are disappointed by the choices of those closest to us. Should you keep working on a relationship where there is a pattern of emotional neglect, constant rejection, and a general lack of caring? No, of course not. But in otherwise healthy and happy relationships it is necessary to be able to handle a certain level or rejection or disappointment in a way that is healthy.

Listen first, talk after

Sometimes a person will explain the action and it's important you actually hear what they're saying- you may feel hurt but they're entitled to make their own decisions and even though it can be hard in the moment they're not necessarily wrong for not wanting the same things as you. Whether it's that they don't want to eat at that restaurant because it's expensive or they don't cater to their dietary requirements, they don't want to meet your family because they have reservations about that level of pressure, they can't call you tonight because they have a work engagement, they aren't going to offer you the promotion because they feel you're better suited elsewhere, or even as far up the scale as they don't want to talk about having children yet because they're focused on their career- you owe it to them to listen to their perspective as much as they owe it to you to listen to yours.

Do not act out emotionally

If you know your response will be deeply rooted in your emotions and there is a risk that you may say something damaging, that you'll regret, or even just emotionally manipulative- don't do it. Smaller rejections are often easier to handle in this way as you likely know not to call your friend a bitch for blowing you off because of her Aunt's funeral or not wanting to eat Italian tonight, but with larger rejections it can be easier to act out in the moment. Remember when our mothers would say if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all? It's a little like that. When handling an emotionally charged rejection if you feel that you need time to process then take it. Tell the person you need some time to think, tell them that you're unsure how to respond in the moment but you'd love to talk about this again when things are less raw, tell them that this is a lot to take in, you're allowed space. If they're a decent person they'll allow this.

Explain your feelings

It's important that you get your point across without necessarily pressuring them to change their mind and encouraging a conversation rather than giving an ultimatum. There's a big difference between "I can't believe you'd do this to me, you're the worst" and "I understand where you're coming from but from my perspective it appears this way and because of that I feel like this". Some examples- "I deserved that promotion, you don't appreciate me or my work, I should leave!" vs "I know you have your reasons but I'm hurt that I wasn't promoted and it is making me feel less valued, is it possible to go over how I could progress in the future?". "Why don't you want kids with me? You must not love me, why should we even be together?" vs "As you know, having kids is important to me and I feel ready so obviously it's hurtful that you're not there yet, what is it that is getting in the way for you?". Even seemingly smaller issues such as "You never make time for me and we haven't hung out in ages I just feel like you're barely my friend" vs "It's been hard not seeing you because I feel like I need that quality time and I miss you, is there a time when you'd be free or is there any way I can make it easier?".

Aim for compromise

Nobody can always have their own way and you shouldn't go into any conversation hoping that the outcome is your complete satisfaction possibly at the expense of theirs. If you want to take on more responsibility at work but they don't trust you to, go into the conversation working out how you can progress over time rather than immediately. If you want to move in with a partner but they don't want to, aim to find ways you can feel closer to them and have more quality time without the pressure of shared rent. If you want to go on holiday to Asia but they can't afford it, try to figure out somewhere else you BOTH want to go. It really goes on and on, you need to figure out a good half way point together and work towards that, no ultimatums or threats, nobody left feeling completely screwed over.

Look to the rest of your network

Sometimes the issue isn't something you can compromise on as well, if you need a plus 1 to an event and your best pal won't go then you can't really find a half way for example. At this point it's okay if you go elsewhere, if you need help with something then ask yourself who else can help, if you want more opportunities then ask yourself where else you can go, if you need a shoulder to cry on then who else can be there? It may feel like, in the moment, that person is the only one you can rely on or depend on for what you need but I can assure you, when you open yourself up to other people, you'll find that there are plenty of people in this world who care. Your best friend blew you off? Spend time with other friends, family, a significant other. Your significant other doesn't want to move in with you? Find someone else you could enjoy splitting rent with, be it a friend or a new flatmate. Friend backed out on a trip? Treat your mum to a weekend away together instead. Sometimes we rely a lot on one person for all of our emotional needs which sets us up for disappointment, it's important to invest is having a well rounded network of people around you.

Move on

Sometimes the bigger rejections make you feel crappy for a long time, sometimes it can feel like your whole world is falling apart, but you will be fine. Whether it's missing out on that job, losing that relationship, having to change big plans that you were really looking forward to, or whatever it may be- you will move past it. It sounds cliche but sometimes things really do happen for a reason and this disappointment could lead to opportunities you wouldn't have ever imagined otherwise. Being dumped can lead to a better relationship in the future, not being hired could open you up to a new role that you love more, not spending the holidays with one person could give you a chance to get to know someone else better. A lot of things that I cherish most in my life I have because of other things going wrong- you need to trust your ability to go through tough shit and still come out with accomplishments, love and happiness.

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