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10 Ways to Avoid Rejection

Whether at work, at home, or in your social life, strategies to get to yes.

You’d like to go out with a person you’ve just met, but to your disappointment, the potential partner turns you down. Or perhaps you’d like a family member to do you a favor and, unfortunately, your request is met with a polite but firm “no.” Life is full of opportunities for rejection, but no matter how many times you’ve gone through it, the experience rarely gets any easier.

The following 10 tips could help you avoid the pain of rejection because they may help make your requests more likely to meet with success.

It might not be evident to most outside of academia, but we who work in education constantly face rejection. (The field also presents plenty of opportunities to reject others: Applicants for admission are routinely turned away, students who seek a scholarship go unfunded, and students are regularly sent back to the drawing board for thesis ideas.)

Whatever your field, though, being turned away or turned down can prompt a difficult process of soul-searching. You can’t help but feel inferior, even if the rejection was based on factors other than your ability, effort, or personality. Although soul-searching may be warranted, and possibly even good for you, there may be a way to avoid it altogether.

Returning to academia, the pain of having an article rejected for publication is particularly acute for a researcher. To help potential authors in the highly competitive field, Deakin University of Australia Journal of Management Education editor Jon Billsberry provided his readers with a top 10 list of ways to avoid "the cull." But his useful set of guidelines applies to a variety of forms of rejection. His tips build on each other, so check them off one at a time:

1. Make your request one that the other person can perform.

There’s no point asking someone who is extremely busy to give you a large chunk of time to perform a favor. Similarly, don’t ask someone out for a social engagement if you know that person doesn’t like that particular type of event (e.g. a hockey game for an arts lover). Billsberry’s analogy was to avoid sending an article about spirituality to his management education journal. There has to be a match between the request and the other person's potential to satisfy it.

2. Be sure your request is clear.

The person you’re asking has to know exactly what you want. If you frame your request as “I’d like more money,” or “Do you want to get together sometime?” the other person won’t know what you mean. Be clear and precise about what you’re asking for, as long as you think that it’s something the other person can reasonably do.

3. Keep it short and sweet.

People have a limited amount of time and attention to spend on listening to requests. You know how tedious it can be to hear a long and convoluted story, especially if you sense that there’s an “ask” that will come at the end of it. For example, if you want someone to lend you money, you could go on and on with the exigencies of your circumstances, or you could get to the point right away and then be prepared to answer questions if the person wants to hear more. If you’re filling out an application for something, use the space provided rather than tacking on extra sheets.

4. Don’t leave out anything important.

It might strike you as a sneaky way to get your request filled if you are deliberately vague. While keeping your request specific and clear, you also want it to be wide-ranging enough to cover what you’re asking the person to do. “It won’t take long” doesn’t tell the other person whether the request is for five minutes or five hours. Just as you want the request to be clear, you want it to cover all the bases. If you believe that the person you’re asking doesn’t have the time or power to grant your request, you probably shouldn’t be asking for it in the first place.

5. Keep it relevant.

Asking your boss to contribute to a cause that your family is soliciting donations from is not only potentially awkward (especially for your boss) but not particularly germane to your employment. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. It’s possible that your boss does have a track record of generosity with employee donations, but unless you know that for sure, stay away from such requests. Similarly, asking a family member to help get a friend a job may be considered both tacky and inappropriate unless you know for a fact that this family member has provided jobs or at least networking opportunities in the past.

6. Provide a compelling rationale.

You’ll need to explain why you’re making this request, particularly the more you’re asking the other person to do. Going over to the neighbor’s home and asking for the proverbial cup of sugar doesn’t require much explanation, but asking the neighbor to help you fix something that’s broken or lend you something more substantial would justify some background. Similarly, if you’re asking someone out to dinner, you might indicate that you’re doing this because you’d like to get to know the person better, or you’ve got a discount coupon that you’d like to share. Whatever the basis for your request, keeping it short, relevant, and honest, will also increase the odds that it’s filled.

7. Use the right language (and body language).

Be respectful of the person from whom you're making the request. You usually want to talk "up" to the person who you want to have do you a favor or give you something. This means using words like "please." Don't be too smug and assume that of course your request will be granted just because it's coming from you. The more inconvenience involved for the other person, the more you need to keep this in mind. Your body language should also communicate deference and respect. If you come swaggering into the room, you'll similarly convey that look of entitled overconfidence. On the other hand, don't try to make yourself look too pitiful because this will only make you appear manipulative.

8. Don’t overshare.

Just as you want to justify your request, you should also stay away from revealing more than is expected or appropriate. You don’t need to tell that prospective date that you’ve been fantasizing about him or her for weeks. Similarly, you might not want to tell your neighbor that you need the sugar because you’ve just spent the last 3 hours crying over the ending of a relationship and now need to make yourself some cookies to cheer you up. By oversharing, you’re making the other person want to get away as fast as possible, and most likely saying “no” on the way out the door.

9. Avoid silly mistakes.

This advice would be most appropriate if you’re sending a request over email. If you want “Sally” to do something for you but she turned you down, and you then next go to “Kathy,” be sure you delete Sally’s name. If you’re applying for a job or school, include the right name of the institution in the cover letter and double-check it before you send it.

10. Learn from your experiences.

It’s possible that despite your best efforts, you were turned down in your request anyway. After the pain has subsided, use the opportunity to gain understanding of why you were rejected and what you could do to avoid it in the future. There is the possibility that you did everything exactly right, but the circumstances just didn’t cooperate with you. Perhaps you asked for a raise during a time of general belt-tightening at your firm. Be sure you listen carefully to reason for your rejection from the source, because it’s possible that when the time is right, you’ll be able to have wishes granted.

Handling rejection is a skill, not a talent. If you pitch your requests as carefully and wisely as possible, though, you won’t have to practice that skill very often.

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, "Fulfillment at Any Age," to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2014 .

Reference

Billsberry, J. (2014). Desk-rejects: 10 top tips to avoid the cull. Journal Of Management Education, 38(1), 3-9.

Image source: http://pixabay.com/en/no-negative-cards-spiral-68481/

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