In his book Rejection Free: How to Choose Yourself First and Take Charge of Your Life by Confidently Asking for What You Want, Scott Allan says that one of the lies we tell ourselves about rejection is that it’s about us. Most often, it’s not personal at all. “You think it is you, when in fact, it is really the other person or the situation that is driving their choices at the time,” he writes.
Fear of rejection drives us to ask for less and settle for less. What if you could de—sensitize yourself to rejection? What if you could hear “no” and not feel pain or shame? What would you pursue if you didn’t fear failing? (Notice I didn’t use the trope “if you knew you couldn’t fail.” No one can know that. I’m talking about knowing you might fail and trying anyway.)
Learning to fear “no” isn’t something we’re born with. If you’ve spent any time with a young child, you’ll see single-minded persistence personified. Children aren’t afraid to ask for what they want, and a firm “no” doesn’t faze them. They’ll ask over and over until they wear you down or get sent to their room. It’s only after we learn to feel ashamed for asking that we stop asking.
As I’m crafting this post, I think about the times I’ve said or heard an adult say “It never hurts to ask.” You’ve said it before as well. How do you feel when you say those words aloud? The times I’ve said them, I felt confident, buoyant. I knew I’d be OK, even if the answer was a flat no. I’d bob cheerfully on to the next idea or the next request.
But some requests are fraught with fear and shame; I think it’s because they (in my mind) reflect on my basic worth. Asking for a raise, asking for a networking meeting, interviewing for a job. These interactions feel different somehow, and rejection felt like a referendum on my value as a human being.
Scott Allan writes that we each have plenty of reasons for not asking for what we want.
Here are some reasons we don’t ask, he writes:
- The answer will be a definite NO (so why bother).
- You will be embarrassed or humiliated if rejected.
- You fear that if they say YES you’ll be expected to return the favor.
- We undermine our own confidence, believing that we are not worthy to receive this.
- Pride gets in the way when we associate asking with begging.
- Low self-esteem issues: my needs are not that important and I can do without.
- I might be judged for being poor, for not having this already.
The only way to get past these fears is to practice getting rejected more often. Exposure is the cure for fear. The first time you do something, it’s terrifying. The next time, merely scary. The 50th time you do it, it feels routine.
Allan suggests that you make a list of all the things you’d like right now – big and small. Help on a project. A discount on the sofa you’re thinking about buying. An apology from your sister-in-law. Next Friday off. Allan writes that you’ll have to ask and be rejected regularly for your desensitization to take effect. “You won’t be cured by getting rejected once, but by doing it continuously. It acts as a major boost of confidence and pushes the power of rejection right out the door.”
Soon: A plan for getting rejected as often as possible.