Rejection Is . . .

A SHY ACQUAINTANCE we’ll call Jack recounted how awful he used to feel from instant rejection. As a late bloomer, he felt doubly vulnerable given his little experience in chatting up those he found attractive. No sooner would he say, “Hello,” or ask someone to dance than they would turn away or abruptly shout, “No.”

Rejection made him wary of approaching anybody else, so he held back, felt worse by the moment, and left. He didn’t want to risk rejection twice in one evening. Luckily, Jack later looked at his situation more closely. “You can only reject something you know,” he thought. “These strangers know nothing about me, so whatever they’re doing,” he concluded, “it’s not rejection. Maybe they’re just as frightened as I am.”

By choosing not to take some stranger’s quick dismissal personally, Jack felt much better—so much so that an obvious plan unfolded. Each time he went out he would give five people the opportunity to dance with him. He started optimistically, but by the time he heard his fourth curt refusal Jack decided that he wasn’t going to let his fifth prospect off the hook so easily.

“Did I ask to fuck you?” he bellowed to Bachelor Number Five. “We’re in a bar, not your bedroom. I only asked to dance!” He eventually got so good at making his recipients feel guilty for answering, “No,” that escape was out of the question. Not only did they relent and realize that they wanted to dance after all, but later confessed appreciation for Jack’s persistence. Turns out that they were just as frightened as he was. The evening ended well once the two learned something about each other.

Aside from showing what can happen when you take matters in your own hands, Jack’s story clarifies what rejection is. He was right to conclude that we can reject only that which we know well. With that in mind:

Barflies and gym bunnies who won’t say hello or even look at you aren’t rejecting you. They are more likely shy people hiding behind walls or jerks with attitude. Rather than feel bad and take their unresponsiveness personally, why not have some fun and push until you get a reaction? They’ll either drop their facade or blow up. Either way, they’ll show their true face.

When someone decides not to continue seeing you after a number of dates, it isn’t rejection, but failed courtship, whether the interlude lasted a few weeks or a few months. Time alone never makes a relationship; only joint emotional commitment does. Hopefully, each side learns something from failed courtship.

True rejection can only occur after you have let yourself go emotionally and the other knows your intimate details. For example, if your spouse of seven years ever announces that it’s over and that you are no longer loved—now, that’s rejection. It hurts and delivers a shattering blow to self esteem than only time can repair.

Everyone endures superficial judgments in daily life—at work, when socializing, while running errands, and so forth. None of it is genuine rejection. Knowing this, arrange conditions so that those whom you wish to know get to know the real you.

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