I am constantly amazed by the stupidity imparted by people when it comes to how they handle certain situations, in this particular instance rejection/rejecting someone. It’s never a nice thing feeling to be made to feel unwanted or to hurt someone’s feelings (unless you’re a horrible person) but it is an inevitable fact of life, that at some point we will be denied something that we want.
Sometimes it’s regarding a position in a university or a job, sometimes it’s when we apply for something extracurricular like tickets to a game or membership to a club, and sometimes it’s in relation to a person. Either way, the simple two letter word can crush our spirit and bruise our egos despite the confidence we usually have in ourselves. It’s particularly difficult because we are made to feel like we aren’t good enough, that we are flawed. We put ourselves out there only be to be informed that sorry, we’re not good enough.
I have no insight as to how to make rejecting less harsh, or taking the sting that comes from being rejected. I guess I can throw out the generic phrases, “When one door closes another opens…” “There are plenty of fish in the sea…” “You’re better than that,” “It’s not the right X.” or the ever popular, “It’s THEIR loss.” While these phrases might indeed be accurate, somehow they do little to mollify us. I always wonder why, if I am so great, that I am in this situation of being unwanted and imagine I am not alone in this sentiment.
Personally, I handle the art of rejecting someone by simply not handling it. I simply fade into a whirlwind of being too busy and blaming other obligations. (Though the truth is we are never too busy to get what we want and if I wanted you, I’d make you a priority) I’m the girl that you come up to at a bar and start a conversation with who will actually talk back, whether interested in you or not, because I know how difficult it is to put yourself on the line and I don’t want to be responsible for wounded ego or feelings. Much to the chagrin of my close friends, I can’t find it in myself to be a bitch to unwanted suitors, so I give out my phone number and make plans, only to not pick up or cancel (or the ever classic Alice move of running away and hiding.) I have since found out that I’m been lying to myself, that doing these things is just leading someone on, which is, in fact, more mean (though unintentional)…I am not condoning rude or callous behavior but am slowly recognizing that rejecting someone is an acquired skill, one that we should all strive to obtain.
The way I see it there are several forms of rejection: 1. Flat out and 2. Residually. While I think both are unpleasant there is something about the former that has the same effect as ripping off a band aid, it hurts but then it’s over. We move on. Or should.
The residual is much worse. This happens when you’re in a situation where you’re led to believe that you’re in a position to succeed. Whether it be you’ve been on an interview and had several follow ups or met someone that you like, spent time with them only to find out that they don’t share a mutual admiration. The residual is what makes us second guess ourselves, what makes us analyze every detail and wonder what we did wrong, how we could’ve made things different. The residual is not necessarily a result of something being wrong with us or something we’ve done wrong but we can’t help but feel that it is. In short, it hurts. It’s when the band aid won’t come off in a clean tug but rather gets caught on our skin resulting in another cut to heal.
As I said, I have no insight as to how to make the process easier other than having enough self esteem to believe the generic phrases above, but throughout the years I have watched people close to me (in addition to myself) handle both sides of the circumstance and have come up with the following guidelines as to how to best handle this sticky situation:
When Rejecting Someone:
1. Sensitive Honesty: If you are going to reject someone, there is no reason to be mean about it, even if you think they deserve it. Always be kind, but firm. Don’t elaborate too much, just let them know it’s not going to happen.
2. Save the Sugarcoating: No one wants a letdown that is riddled with compliments. Don’t tell the person who great they are or that it’s not them, it’s you. It may be true but it rings hollow to the recipient who will really just hear the negative. Praising someone while telling them no is almost insulting.
3. Time and a Place: I have mentioned many times how timing is a key ingredient in so many factors in life. If you’re about to give someone bad news, try and consider the forum in which to do so. Over text or email is easy, yes, but cowardly. However when delivering the news in person it should be in an appropriate setting. I once had a guy who I was interested in and (kind of) been kind of hanging out with decide to drop the bomb at 4am while we were both drunk at a bar with a group of friends. Not the best delivery and almost a guarantee that emotions will be more heightened.
4. Play Fair: Once you’ve decided and told the person no, be kind. Don’t play with their emotions. Don’t flirt or lead them to believe there is a chance. You’ve hurt them enough, so don’t continue to do so.
5. Assess the Situation: If you know that you don’t want someone or something then don’t give the impression that you’re interested.
If you are on the receiving end of rejection:
1. Accept Defeat Gracefully: You were just told that you were not wanted, which is bad enough, but know how make it worse? React badly. It will just confirm everything. You don’t need answers and frankly why would you want them. Don’t fight it. Don’t come up with plans to change their mind. You shouldn’t have to convince someone of your worth. If they can’t see it then walk away and find someone who does. (The only case where this can be different is if you lost out on a job, I think it’s ok to have a normal, rational conversation about strengths and weaknesses)
2. Cut Back on the Self Deprecation: Just because you were rejected in this once instance, doesn’t mean it’s a life pattern. Don’t concern yourself with what you could’ve done differently or any indiscretions that may have led to the decision. The fact is, if someone likes you, they’ll overlook most things they’ll see the good because they want to. There are plenty of people who will disagree with the Rejecter’s assessment, and make sure you’re one of them. (Think about it, you don’t like everyone so can’t expect them to like you.) Don’t lose faith. You’re awesome. I can’t say this enough.
3. Don't Overcompensate and Take a Hint: Once again, you're not going to change the persons mind and once someone tells you no, they mean it. No amount of cool, sweet, nice gestures on your part is going to change this. They'll only make you look as pathetic as you already feel.
4. Take the Time to Get Over It. You don't have to pretend you're ok and happy about this. Feelings and emotions are a normal part of life, it's just how you deal with them.
5. Take Back Control: Remember however bad/mad/sad you may feel, that your happiness is dependent on one person, and that person is you. You can choose how you allow things and people to affect you. You may need time before you interact with this person again, you may to never speak to them again. Whatever you need, do it. Unless it is yelling at them or verbally assaulting them (this includes drunken messages)
It is unrealistic to expect to be successful in every relationship and situation in our lives. People are complex and indiscernible at times. We sometimes don’t know why we feel a certain way. All we know is that things are the way they are. Let it be.
On a side note: I listened to this song on repeat whilst writing this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoHV229_DQM