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10 Ways to Manage Rejection

It is impossible to be liked by everyone.

Key points

  • It is impossible to like, or to be liked, by everyone.
  • What feels like rejection may actually be something else entirely.
  • People can learn to sit with the uncertainty associated with all sorts of life experiences.

There is nothing quite as painful as being rejected. It goes something like this: You are passing by a colleague in the morning on the way to the coffee machine and that colleague greets everyone but you. Ouch. Or perhaps you learn that your group of friends is getting together for a cup of coffee and you are not included. It stings, doesn't it? Maybe you are a college student and all of your friends got into a sorority except you. You are hurt, embarrassed, and sad. You may also feel frustrated and humiliated. Rejection is served up in all sorts of ways and is never easy. It is clear, though, that you will encounter rejection in all sorts of ways during your lifetime. Because of that, we need to have a serious conversation about how to deal with it most effectively. Let me be clear: Rejection will never be easy or welcome but it can become easier to deal with over time. I have a number of suggestions to help you deal with this experience and associated feelings in a more flexible and effective manner.

  1. Do not expect everyone to like you. This is an impossible expectation. You don't like everyone, do you? We can't all feel connected to each other at all times. Once you have made peace with the realization that inclusion is not always the way things will turn out, you may start feeling calmer and less reactive and hurt.
  2. Perhaps the rejection is a blessing in disguise. The relationship may have stopped serving you or it may be time to change the nature of the relationship. You do not necessarily need to end the relationship but you may need to have contact less frequently. Perhaps weekly contact is too much for this particular friendship. Consider this and experiment with different levels of contact.
  3. If a friend, colleague, or partner seems to be dropping you maybe they have noticed that the synergy between the two of you is just not working at this point. This does not mean that you are a flawed person. The chemistry may be off at this moment. At a later point in time, it may work better.
  4. Sometimes we make each other angry. In that case, we may be rejected. A cooling down period of several days or weeks may be necessary. In this case, substitute the phrase "cooling down" for rejection. It might not only be more accurate but it also might feel kinder and gentler.
  5. Keep in mind that there are always new people to meet and new relationships that can be nurtured and developed. Life is exciting in that way. We always get opportunities to meet new people if we put ourselves out there and are curious about and interested in meeting new people.
  6. Perhaps experiencing rejection is not a bad thing. It helps us not only understand our effects on others a bit more but every painful experience encourages us to learn new coping skills and to have more empathy for the experiences of others.
  7. Rejection does not always mean that the person who is rejecting you doesn't like you or finds you offensive. Perhaps that person is jealous of your success. Friends often have difficulty celebrating each other's successes. I have witnessed this sort of interaction frequently and it always makes me sad. We are, after all, supposed to be celebrating each other.
  8. Rejection might also be what you are experiencing when the offending person is actually avoiding you. Avoidance and rejection feel painfully similar but they are actually different. Someone who is currently avoiding you may be immersed in issues that are consuming. They may eventually find their way back to you.
  9. When you experience someone pulling away from you, your tendency might be to somehow chase after that person. This makes sense because none of us like loss. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes less is more. Give the person space. Do not crowd them. Don't rush to repair whatever might be going on. Try instead to allow the other person to have time to reinitiate contact. Trust me on this one.
  10. You do not need to fix everything. Sometimes, it makes sense to sit with some uncertainty and ambiguity. Even if you want to repair everything, this is impossible. Work on learning to be comfortable with a bit of uncertainty. It is an excellent skill to have and teach.