Rejection is perceived as a personal assault and causes emotional stress. This triggers a variety of emotions, including fear, anxiety, sadness and anger, all of which affect people in different ways. Some people give-up or barely recover. Others steadily rebound, while the more resilient of the species become motivated to thrive and prosper, even surpassing prior expectations.
"Social science has done much work in recent years to investigate the most effective 'weapons' to thwart personal and emotional assaults. These weapons can provide us with the edge to not only survive these assaults, but to transform the experience into something useful and constructive," says Psychologist, Morne Buchner. "People who are able to survive, get back on track and transform their situations are generally more resilient than their counterparts and referred to as people with more RQ or Resilience Quotient." This means people with good RQ are better equipped to cope with challenging experiences. They adapt to change and have the ability to persevere and overcome obstacles. Morne says they have a distinct set of attitudes and skills that afford them the capacity to survive and thrive, despite adversity or rejection. "The pertinent themes to remember are that people with resilient attitudes are involved, active and willing to face opportunities to grow and change. People with less resilient attitudes will be more withdrawn and passive," explains Morne.
Raising your resilience
So, if resilience is such a beneficial quality, can we harness it? Psychologists seem to think so. "Research shows that resilience is a skill that can be learned, sustained and embodied in both personal and organizational contexts. By increasing resilience levels, individuals become more flexible mentally, emotionally and behaviourally, and, as a result, learn to cope with stressful situations better," says Psychologist, Claire Newton. Here's how she suggests going about it:
1. Know your strengths.
2. Trust your inner resources.
3. Focus on the positive and on opportunity and avoid focusing on the risk and negative aspects.
4. Know when you need help and ask for it.
5. Manage your time, energy and priorities effectively.
6. Build good relationships and network with others.
Morne also credits 'knowing your strengths' as a means to developing your RQ. "Identify and appreciate your current strengths and gifts. After listing your strengths and reflecting on their power, you can scan your life for evidence of where you have coped well with adverse events and how the strengths come in handy. In addition, always challenge yourself to find the possible benefits when experiencing seemingly adverse events. Practice what Psychologists and councellors call reframing – much like creative problem solving where you restate the problem so that it sounds like an opportunity for development," explains Morne.
The EQ factor
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is closely linked to RQ because resilience is a skill that determines EQ. Other skills influencing EQ include empathy, optimism, social responsibility, self-awareness, assertiveness, good communication skills and positive self-management, to name just a few. This means that you can heighten your RQ, and ability to cope with rejection, by boosting your EQ skills.
It's difficult to discuss EQ and RQ without including Intelligence Quotient (IQ). However, IQ is not directly linked to EQ and RQ (after all there are highly intelligent people with very poor social skills) except in that people with a high IQ are probably capable of applying better problem solving techniques when dealing with life's challenges. Yet, as Morne points out, the more intelligent a person is, the more likely they are to create more difficult problems. This ultimately leaves them in the same situation as less intelligent people as far as their personal experience is concerned!
"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority" Thomas Huxley, English scientist
Dealing with rejection
The bottom line is rejection is inevitable. And, while no one likes being turned down, there are ways to effectively deal and even grow from it.
1. Don't take it personally
Albeit easier said than done, rejection is very often more about the person giving it and their personal thoughts and emotions, than the person facing the rejection. It may even be an issue of bad timing such as a job application that's declined because the position is already filled. Before taking it personally, listen carefully and maintain a sense of focus.
2. Every bad is not for the worst
Being turned down may be a blessing in disguise. It gives you the opportunity to reflect and learn about yourself and others. It teaches you how to better approach the same situation in the future and delivers a better understanding of what others want, thereby increasing your chances of success next time around.
3. Focus on the positive
Ditch the 'woe-is-me' attitude and acknowledge that everyone has to deal with rejection. Things cannot always go your own way. Instead of harping on the disappointment, focus on the positives in your life, not to mention the times you may have rejected others!
4. Don't give up
Have confidence in yourself and don't equate rejection to failure. Draw motivation from famous actors celebrated for their success and talents – most of whom faced repeated rejection before making the big time! Without determination and self-belief, many celebrities would not be famous today. "I was told to avoid the business all together because of the rejection. People would say to me, 'Don't you want to have a normal job and a normal family?' I guess that would be good advice for some people, but I wanted to act," said Jennifer Aniston.
Accept the rejection – good or bad, just or unjust – and let it be without getting you down. To help take your mind off the disappointment, engage in things that you are good at (or that make you feel happy). Acceptance allows you to see more clearly and enables the capacity to learn, even thrive, from the setback.
6. Ask for help
Don't be ashamed to ask family and friends for help or advice. Alternatively, seek professional guidance from a psychologist or counsellor. "They will help you work through the difficult emotions and make sense of your feelings. It may help you to understand why you are taking this rejection so hard and help you build resilience for the future," suggests Claire.
Sources: Morne Buchner www.buchnerinc.co.za; Claire Newton www.clairenewton.co.za