Several months ago, I was interviewing for a sales job and the interviewer asked me a question common to business professionals, particularly those of us in sales:
How do you handle rejection?
Now, I was in sales management for nearly 5 years. I’ve asked this question to potential employees hundreds — nay, thousands of times. I’ve heard all of the answers and I gave the one that I knew would be a gold star:
I can handle a great deal of rejection…after all, I’m in sales. Every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes!
Great answer, right? Golden child though I obviously was, he followed up my prize-winning answer with another question:
Yes, Danielle — salespeople get turned down plenty. But I’m more concerned about how you handle rejection in its most insidious form: how do you handle it when you’re the one rejecting yourself and your own efforts?
Rejection in sales, as in life, is part of the package. But this man is on to something — how do we deal with the rejection that comes from the person we look at in the mirror daily? It doesn’t always come from the interviewer that denied us the job, from the customer that changed their mind last minute, from the boss that shut down our brilliant idea. Plenty of times, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to rejection. Any of this sound familiar?
- I’m not going to apply for that job; I’m probably under-qualified since I didn’t get that other one I interviewed for. What’s the point in wasting my time?
- The last 20 people I’ve cold-called have either not answered or weren’t interested. It must be just an off day. I’ll stop now and just pick it up again tomorrow.
- That customer didn’t want to buy and I’m pretty bummed. I should just stop working til I’m feeling better.
- They probably won’t give me a raise anyway — I’ve heard the economy still hasn’t really bounced back.
You can likely continue to add to this list of rejection self-talk. I know I have heard some of these same things coming out of my mouth this week after a potential contract fell through. How do you ever break the cycle?
Here are a few tips to help get out of the rut that can set you up for self-destruction:
- Look at the facts. Sometimes one bad thing happens and distorts our perception of the rest of the world. Are you really a complete failure, or did just a few things not work out as you’d hoped? Put your situation in perspective and see if all is as lost as you may think.
- Tally up your victories. I used to coach my own sales staff in this — when you get wrapped up in your failures or personal rejection, it is easy to begin to self-sabotage. Stop that from beginning by looking back at your last day, week, month and making a list of all of your successes. Doing this can also help put things in perspective: you really are a rock star, but we all have setbacks. Focus on those victories to put yourself in a mindset to manifest more of them!
- Take a breath. Sometimes it is good to get out of the situation. We used to have a rule at my old office — after three consecutive no-sale interviews, you need to get up and take a break. Maybe after the workday, you go for a run, write a short story, dance the pain away — whatever it is, find the thing that reminds you how awesome you truly are and then do that.
- Do post-game analysis and set up a plan. All good athletes/performers watch their performances afterward to find out what went wrong. Once you’ve cleared your head space (and ONLY at that point), run through the situation that led to the negative self-talk. Figure out what specifically went wrong. You may be able to change it next time and if so, lesson learned. If you couldn’t have changed it or seen it coming, stop blaming yourself and let it go. Set up your plan for the next day or time you may see this situation. Make sure you plan to be up early, get your coffee, put on your winning outfit, and rehearse your new game plan. Set yourself up for success. (A personal favorite: I blare “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled as loud as possible with all my car windows down. Don’t judge.)
Leave the self-rejection behind. The most successful people this world has known are people who took their failures and turned them into lessons. The people who stopped taking chances on failing are the people who gave into self-rejection. Pick up your guitar, walk out on stage and kill your next performance — your audience will thank you for showing up to play.