Derek Tillotson


My first line was going to be: "Rejection sucks." That one is way too obvious, even for me. It's true, though. Rejection is one of the inevitablities of life, but accepting it as such doesn't make it any easier to deal with it. Repeatedly encountering rejection doesn't seem to soften the blow, either. It's frustrating.

People respond to rejection in different ways. There's no right way to do it, and the only wrong way is the one that hurts someone. Still, some reactions are healthier than others. But almost all all of my rejections have been learning experiences. Some taught me life lessons (don't let gatekeepers determine your happiness), others have been specific (ask better questions during a job interview), and a few have been simple "don't do this" lessons (see number 4 below).

I've found five different ways I've reacted to rejection. This list isn't comprehensive and I'm sure others have reacted in many different ways as well, but these have all taught me something.

1) I shrug my shoulders and move on. I wish I felt this way more often, but it's a difficult practice. Most of the time, I find myself reacting this way when I'm rejected for something I didn't care much about anyways. A job interview with a bunch of red flags or asking someone out on a dating app are things that will cause me to not thing twice and carry on with my daily life. It's less of a rejection and more just something that happened.

2) I analyze what happened. The most constructive follow-up. I take some time to clear my head, then go back and replay what happened leading up to the rejection. This is best done by asking questions: How did I present myself? How well did I speak? Did I bring something to the table? Were there outside factors (such as other people) that made an influence? In certain situations, I'll ask for feedback. When it comes to job hunting, I've recevied feedback only once, but it's something I solicit unless I receive what appears to be a canned email.

3) I overthink things. It's the one where I attempt to overanalyze what happened. Did I say something wrong? Did I offend someone? Did I show up too early? Was I not funny enough? Did I ask too many questions? Did I not ask enough questions? Did I smell? And while these sorts of questions can explain things and provide useful feedback, they're rarely the correct thing to wonder and dwelling on them provides no benefit.

4) I try to renegotiate. This one is especially terrible when the rejection comes from a social/romantic setting, and that's a fact I learned the hard way. In fact, renegotiation is virtually never going to be a smart move. In a sales situation, when you have a potential client/customer against the ropes and you read it as "they like us but they need one more push," then perhaps it's a good idea. In a job hunt setting, there's no plus side (the company takes time to decide so their mind is made up) and in most other situations, it's just a terrible look that leads to a second rejection. I'm grateful I learned how to not do this one relatively early in my life.

5) I lie on the floor. This still gets me once in a while, especially when I get too emotionally attached to the idea of whatever it is I get rejected from. Every now and then--from rejection or otherwise--I'll find myself lying on the floor. Could be because of rejection, stress, bad news, annoyance, or a variety of other causes. It's a "rock bottom" type of feeling that sucks all the life out of me in the moment, but is often the catalyst for taking steps to improve myself.

At the very least, a tough rejection will get me writing, and I'm grateful for that.

Written January 28, 2020

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