Fear of rejection? Here’s how to overcome it
The fear of rejection can be a serious issue if left unresolved. It can be frustrating when we avoid having that important phone call, procrastinate on having that discussion, don’t ask for that number, or delay asking for that raise we deserve.
It’s not only frustrating, it can also lead to missing big opportunities in our lives.
Fortunately, there’s a way to reduce or even cure the fear of rejection.
Do you fear rejection?
If you want to find out if you fear rejection, we have a simple test for you.
Imagine you go to your local coffee shop. As you're standing at the counter, imagine asking for a 10% discount.
How do you feel about this?
Most of us will feel really uncomfortable just thinking about it, let alone trying it.
Why do we fear rejection?
We need to understand why we fear rejection in the first place.
Our ancestors lived in small tribes where being accepted was the utmost importance because if others didn’t like you, you could get ostracized/banned from the tribe which meant almost certain death. Therefore, people who didn’t care about being accepted aren’t probably our direct ancestors because they usually died before their genes were transferred.
Since then, we’ve moved from small tribes into a hectic society where being accepted isn’t always the best choice. At the same time, we’re still wired the same way as our ancestors living in small tribes and most of us carry their genes wishing for being accepted all the time.
That’s why we fear rejection so much. That’s why rejection feels not only like a rejection of our request but also of our appearance, character, personality, and our whole selves.
How to overcome the fear of rejection
Here are the 5 steps we'll take you through to overcome the fear of rejection.
- Realize amazing things can happen
- Mindset shift: It's okay to be rejected
- Reduce the probability of being rejected
- How to behave after being rejected
- Get rejected often
Let's get into it!
1. Realize amazing things can happen
If you overcome the fear of rejection, you open yourself to the world of opportunity. You will meet new friends, have more romantic experiences, find a job, get into business with someone.
Most of the things in the world happen because of other people. When you’re able to ask them, you get access to all these people. That’s why the fear of rejection is worth overcoming.
The best example is Arnold Schwarzenneger. The opinions on him differ but regardless of this, he is objectively a super successful person. He is the definition of a self-made man. But when people asked him he rejected the idea of being a self-made man. He replied with:
‘I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me.’
After you stop fearing rejection you can go ask for anything and that’s amazing. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You get rejected.
But getting rejected isn’t that terrible, here’s why:
2. Mindset shift: It's okay to be rejected
When you realize that being rejected is fine, you’re halfway done with overcoming the fear of rejection. Here are the reasons:
Rejection is just an opinion.
Realize that the person rejecting you isn’t really rejecting you. Most of the time, they’re rejecting your request. Maybe they were asked for a similar thing before but they got hurt because of it.
Rejection is human.
The other person is as complex as you are. They have a lifetime of experiences that can lead to rejecting you. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they got into a fight with their significant other earlier in the day, maybe they got yelled at by their boss, or they might be feeling sick.
We all have this tendency to think that when other people do something bad, it’s because of their traits and personality, and we forget the situational factors altogether. So when someone is rude to us, we think that’s how they are all the time. However, most people are trying to be happy and go about their lives just like we do. Maybe the guy was rude to us because he was really stressed and couldn’t handle it. Situational factors can explain a lot in a person's behavior.
Nothing is going to happen, most of the time.
When you get rejected, it’s not the end of the world. The person was rude to us, so what? He might be an angry douchebag who is mad at the world for his failures.
Realize people don’t talk about you all the time.
You might remember the rejection while the other person goes on with his life.
We overestimate how much people care about us. In reality, most people care about themselves.
The rejection is infinitesimal in comparison to everything else.
When you ask other people for something, the negative outcome is likely a rejection. However, the positive outcome can be anything from not bad to life-changing.
Let’s say you ask a girl out (this is not meant to be a pick-up guide). She might reject you. Life goes on. Or she might accept your invitation for a date, both of you fall in love, you find out she’s a keeper and you marry her. You have kids and spend the rest of your lives together.
And it’s the same when you ask someone for a job. You might get rejected and life goes on. Or you might open yourself to a fulfilling career.
Now you know that it’s okay to be rejected, but even so, you can do certain things to avoid that outcome.
3. Reduce the probability of getting rejected
The biggest factor that can help you not get rejected is giving your why.
If you add reasons for why you’re making the request, it reduces the probability of getting rejected.
Heck, the reasons even don’t have to make sense. (Though giving honest reasons is always better.)
Do you want to try it? Go into a grocery store and have one item you want to buy. When you get into a line, ask the person in front of you ideally with a full shopping cart if you can skip him. Don’t forget to add a reason like: ‘because I have just one item’, or ‘because I’m in a rush.’ It’s such a reasonable request that it will work most of the time.
Resolve the objections beforehand.
When you’re making a request, resolve immediately the objections you would get anyway. This improves with the practice of making requests. You build a skill of guessing what people will object with. After you start resolving the objections beforehand, you will build trust much more easily because people like that you’re being honest with them and trying to resolve their worries before they even have them.
This one isn’t always possible but if you can, align your request with your audience.
It’s easier to sell food to a hungry person.
Reduce the probability of getting rejected by adding reasons and aligning with the other party.
4. How to behave after getting rejected
We’ve already stated that situational factors can explain a lot of behavior. However, most of the time, we’re just guessing what the situational factors are. There is another way:
Ask why they are rejecting your request.
When you ask them why they’re rejecting your request, most people will tell you. When this happens, it clears the air. Firstly, you find out why you weren’t successful. This can remove all negative emotions you might feel toward this rejection. Maybe they’re simply in a rush and can’t talk to you now. Maybe they’re not interested because they’ve already done it.
Secondly, it can give you information to tailor your request to this person that will increase the probability of succeeding with your request. That can range from asking for a lesser request to simply rescheduling for another time.
Thirdly, it gives you feedback to use when asking other people for something.
5. Get rejected often
The best way to stop caring about getting rejected is to get rejected often.
Hi, Matej here. I got robbed when I was 11 and it made me scared of going outside. Because of this experience, I was really scared of talking to people I didn’t know. I realized this when I was 16 and I decided to change it. I challenged myself to talk to a stranger every single day. I had to talk to strangers everywhere. Waiting for a bus? Talk to people waiting there. At first, all I could do was to ask them when the next bus was coming. In the beginning, even such a simple request was daunting for me. But over time it developed into a habit and I started to challenge myself. Later, I could converse with total strangers about anything anywhere. It gave me new lifelong friends, opened me to new business opportunities. Heck, even this site exists because of this skill.
And it’s universally true. When you ask, things start to happen.
Watch this short talk about getting rejected again and again.
It might inspire you to take on a similar challenge. Actually, it’s one of the best ways to get comfortable with rejection. You don’t have to be so drastic. You can simply begin with simple requests like I did and increase the difficulty over time.
Summary: How to overcome the fear of rejection
Dealing with the fear of rejection is one of the most important skills in life. Things happen because of other people and you can go only so far without other people.
- Realize amazing things can happen when you start asking
- Mindset shift: Why is it okay to be rejected
- Reduce the probability of getting rejected
- How to behave after getting rejected
- Get rejected often
Use these tips. Ask someone for something today. It can be a small request, it can be a large one.
Practice overcoming the fear of rejection because you never know when you’ll need to ask for help.