The following is adapted from Superbold.
Here’s an interesting story about an incident that I saw happen recently. There is a place near my office where people jaywalk all the time, and one day there was a policeman lying in wait for anyone who attempted it. A woman was about to cross, saw the officer, and instead walked around to the crossing light where I was also waiting. I looked at her and said, “I’m surprised. They really are writing jaywalking tickets. They never do.”
Instead of responding, she turned and looked away, and at the same time did a little dismissive flick of her wrist in my direction. It shocked me. It was like I had asked her for spare change. But then I laughed to myself. “What an amazing total fail,” I thought.
I didn’t say anything rude back. Instead, I imagined that whatever headspace she was in, or whatever social skill level she was at, I simply chose the wrong moment to speak to her. Nothing more. Nothing to worry about or retreat into shyness about. Just the opposite.
This example illustrates the fact that you will frequently encounter rejection in your mundane daily life and especially when you step out of your comfort zone. Don’t let it throw you off or ruin your day. Instead, push yourself to confront rejection head-on. Don’t fear it—simply reframe it.
If you can start redefining rejection, viewing it through a different lens, you’ll feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Start small and purposely put yourself in situations that might result in rejection or failure, such as the one I just shared with you.
Once reframing rejection becomes second-nature, you’ll be ready to tackle more challenging situations. You won’t hesitate to go after even your biggest goals, because the worst thing that might happen is rejection. And you’ll know exactly how to deal with it.
To Fail is to Learn
The problem is we interpret rejection as some sort of failure. But when we let go of failure as something to avoid and make it a goal, then rejection falls by the wayside. Learn to accept that you will inherently not be good at some things at the outset. Owning this realization will be a transformation for you.
It’s time to stop labeling experiences as failures, and start calling them “learning.”
The trick is to make the individual failures simply steps upward, stages of learning and growing, not something any more painful than a hard workout or a well-executed sales pitch where you didn’t close the deal. You gave it your best shot and have something to mine for some lessons. That’s not something to be afraid of.
The beginning of most learning is the most painful part and usually the most discouraging. Once you get beyond that fear of failure, you will start to embrace it, revel in it, and enjoy it, because it means you are on the path.
You have a choice. You can say, “I’m terrible at this. I hate this. I wish it were easier!” Or you can say, “I’m terrible at this, which means I’m at the very exciting part, the very beginning of learning something new. And because it’s so hard, it will be a great challenge and be incredibly satisfying when I get good at it.”
Which choice are you going to make?
Care Less About Others’ Opinions
You will meet people at a party whose attention always seems elsewhere, like they are looking for something or someone better than you at that moment. In fact, that’s exactly what they are doing, and they are always doing it. It’s their behavior in most situations. So, expect it to happen. It is not a reflection on you.
Even if it were, why care? Why would anyone’s opinion besides your own matter? Or at the very least, why would it matter more than your own? I know right now it matters—even pains you—to feel rejection. But this nonchalance about others’ opinions is a powerful new mindset that you’re going to get to, a little at a time.
You’re going to find out as you take more risks in your social interactions that there are people more socially inept than you. You are suddenly going to be on the other side of the fence, and the closet-case shy people are going to be judging you, rejecting you, ignoring you, and even insulting you. (You know, maybe like you used to do.)
This is a good sign, because everything they do is a reflection of the state they are in and how unhappy they are with it. It is NOT a reflection on you, so why would you care about someone’s opinion who is trapped in an unhealthy frame of mind?
Redefinition in Action
Imagine a scenario where you are in a restaurant and you spill something on the table, or worse, knock a glass onto the floor and it breaks. It could be embarrassing. It doesn’t have to be. You can choose to stand up and say, “And for my next trick…” or “Show’s over, folks. Next performance at ten o’clock.” Hard to do? Not really. Why should it be? Only because you tell yourself it is. It’s not hard to stand up and say words. People do it all the time. You could too.
But you hesitate to do this because you’ve added an extra charge to it, this definition of what is acceptable, appropriate, or not showing off, or a dozen other self-imposed excuses for why that’s a response choice you would never make. But is it difficult? Not at all. Physically, it’s ridiculously easy. Which is why the psychology of it is so fascinating. Our minds, our twisted, inhibited, over-thinking brains, can stop our bodies from the most effortless of actions.
This is an example of the process of redefinition through reframing. You will redefine actions that scare you as something harmless. For example, let’s say that you are giving a speech to a roomful of people. This isn’t public speaking – it’s simply speaking–a conversation. By redefining it, you will become less intimidated.
This is nothing short of a change in your worldview. We have a tendency to overload things with excess meaning, often a meaning that causes us to hesitate or misjudge the situation completely. If a definition is holding you back, redefine it. Trim off the excess baggage and put it in its simplest form. Then action becomes easier.
Take the Leap
It’s important to know and accept this very simple fact: not everyone will find you interesting. This doesn’t make you a freak; it makes you normal. No one is interesting to everyone. I guarantee you that some people would have no interest in meeting Justin Timberlake, or Taylor Swift, or Tom Hanks, or even Abraham Lincoln. Prepare yourself for this and it will not hurt. At least not for long.
In short, learn to reject rejection. Which is a lot easier when you redefine it.
This is a big leap, going from fearing rejection to expecting it, redefining it, and reframing it. But, I know you can do it. So, the next time you find yourself in an intimidating social situation, prepare for it. Know that there might be a couple of moments where you feel rejected. In those moments, simply reframe that rejection. And discover how liberating that is.
For more advice on redefining rejection, you can find Superbold on Amazon.
Fred Joyal is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, and business advisor. Along with a lucrative career in advertising and marketing, he co-founded the most successful dentist referral service in the country, 1-800-DENTIST. He has written two books on marketing, dabbled in stand-up and improv comedy, acted in bad movies and excellent TV commercials, and visited over forty-four countries around the world. He has an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, perhaps because of his generous donations. He once beat Sir Richard Branson in chess and was also a question on Jeopardy!. He is an avid cyclist, a below-average tennis player, and an even worse golfer.