The 5 Steps to Surviving a No

It may be another retrograde, but many of my friends and I this week have been discussing how “no” can be one of the most discouraging words a person will ever hear. These two little letters can mark us with rejection, failure, disappointment, and confusion.

Whether it’s a date, a job, a proposal, or an audition, here are a few helpful tips for dealing with the big N-O.

Make a classy exit.

Say “Thank you” and be appreciative of someone else giving their time to hear you. It’s okay to ask a few questions about why he or she came to their decision or what you can do to improve for the future, but yelling, lashing out, or outlining all the reasons why they are making a terrible mistake is not going to help anyone — especially you.

Choose to be gracious and kind, and you will be remembered for it.

Give yourself a moment.

The last time I was turned down for a fellowship I cried like a baby. I was sitting in my car in the middle of DC traffic doing the ugly cry. As childish as I felt, I knew I needed to let out the tension. I had poured my heart into the application process, meshed well with the team members I had met, carried very high hopes, and felt like things were going in my favor. My nerves were frazzled by the end of the two-month interview process, and a good cry was what I needed in order to let go. It’s okay to be disappointed and it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings.

Realize it happens to everyone.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper company because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Oprah was once fired from a television job because she was considered “unfit for TV.”

Every single person — even the highly successful ones — has been turned down at some point in their journey. You’re in great company.

Put in some time.

Take a few hours or set aside a day to make some improvements. Go over any and all feedback you received. Update your resume. Amp up your cover letter. Ask some trusted colleagues for their input.

My soccer coach used to say, “You don’t get better by winning, you get better by losing.” There are always areas for improvement, and we often find them in the midst of rejection. Take the feedback and the critiques and use them to your advantage!

Dream about the future.

There are times when you have done it all — you prepared, you rehearsed, you did the research, you have the skills, you know the market — and still you’re turned away. Sometimes there is no explanation. When these moments come and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, I tell myself that I am being protected from something. This thing I was running after must not be the best path for my life, and something better and more fitting must be coming up ahead.

Knowing this, we can find rest and peace in rejection because it protects us from less than the best. And we can dream about the things still to come. Move on. Dream. Go get ‘em.

What strategies have you found helpful when dealing with rejection? Let us know in the comment section below!