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Fear of Rejection

Estimated Lesson Time: 7 minutes

During my latter years in college, I took a sales job with my sister and mother selling ads in a free magazine that was distributed in hospitals. Majoring in and having quite a strong aptitude for marketing, no matter how hard I tried, I could not help thinking how I was ripping off the businesses to whom I sold the ads. In my eyes, the concept was simple: approach the businesses who count on the local hospital for business, and insinuate that by taking an ad, they are doing the hospital a favor—in short, use deceptive marketing. Due to the responses from the advertisers and the renewal rates, I was quite sure that the ads did not work. Never before did I have such a strong fear of rejection. Needless to say, I did not do very well at the job, but looking back, the experience and lessons learned were priceless.

The fear of rejection, in this sense, refers to the rejection of an offer, as in asking for a date or asking for a sale. When a person fears rejection, they are not really not fearing the word “no,” they are fearing imagined or out of proportion consequences of the rejection. Asking the question, “What am I really fearing?” is a good start to overcoming fear of rejection. Here are some of the more common fears associated with rejection:

The fear of feeling embarrassed. Embarrassment is a physiological phenomenon that causes feelings of anxiety and discomfort that many would rather not have to experience. The simple way to avoid having this experience is to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. However, this leads to missed opportunities and only adds to your fear of rejection. Embarrassment is a feeling that only you can generate based on your perception of external situations. Learn to say, “So what?” and put situations in perspective.

If you cannot conquer the fear of embarrassment itself, ask yourself another question, “What am I afraid of that I will be embarrassed about?” and analyze each answer. For example, selling the ads for the hospital magazine I feared becoming embarrassed if the prospect asked me a question to which I did not know the answer. Back then, I would stutter, get all red, and say, “I’m not sure” and usually blow the sale. Now in sales, I make sure I am well prepared with answers to every possible question that is likely to be asked. When an odd question is asked that I do not have the answer to, I respond with confidence, “I do not have the answer to that right now but I could find it and get back to you.” Being prepared for all of the scenarios you can possibly be embarrassed about will almost certainly wipe away the fear of embarrassment.

The fear of what others will think of you. What will others think of you and your abilities if you are rejected? Will they have less confidence in you? Will they think you are a phony? Will they think you are a loser? Maybe. (I know... not the answer you wanted to hear.) First of all, who are “they”? If “they” are those close to you such as your family and true friends, they will certainly know you for who you are and not let their opinion of you be altered by one or many rejections. If “they” are strangers like a prospect, an audience, or the media, do you honestly care what they think of you? If you say yes, then realize there are over 7 billion people in this world. Should the opinions of a handful of strangers really mean that much to you? Do we think any less of stock market billionaire Warren Buffet because he was rejected from Harvard School of Business, or do we think less of Harvard?

The fear of facing a truth that you do not want to accept. While selling the ads for the hospital magazine, my biggest fear of rejection stemmed from not believing in the product. I felt that I was selling for one purpose only: to make money. I feared that those I was selling to would see this as well. As long as this did not happen, I could rationalize that if an advertiser received just one customer from their ad, it could pay for itself for the entire year. I knew if a prospect did bring up the deceptive marketing techniques used by the company and me, I would not be able to deny it, and I would be out of a job. Rather than attempt to convince myself that I was helping these businesses by selling them these ads, I chose to leave the company.

You are not the one being rejected. In most cases, it is your offer that is being rejected. When a single guy asks a girl out on a date, he is presenting the girl with an offer. It is the offer that the girl either accepts or rejects. If the guy feels he is being rejected too often, then he needs to “sweeten the deal,” perhaps by improving the quality of the conversation prior to the offer. (Note: if you are a guy and now asking, “What conversation?” you may need more help on this subject than I have to offer.)

If after questioning your true fears and doing your best to conquer them, you still feel the fear of rejection, then learn to see rejection as success. Here’s how: realize that a rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success. If it takes ten cold calls to get one sale, then realize without the nine rejections you will not succeed in getting the sale. Now make it a game. Decrease the number of rejections it takes to get a success. To do this, learn from each rejection. Ask yourself, “Why was my offer rejected?” and, “What can I learn from this?” With each rejection, you can improve your chances of success.

It is not rejection itself that people fear; it is the possible consequences of rejection. Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself.

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If you like what you are reading, please consider these options in addition to this course. They include a hardcopy of the book and an intensive course with action steps, assignments, and personal coaching from Bo.

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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
  • Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
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    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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    Personal Development : Personal Transformation
    Offered by VirversitY
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