4 Ways to Handle and Overcome Your Fear of Rejection

Redefining the experience and profiting by it can turn rejection into the fuel for success.

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By Dr. Malachi Thompson III Originally published

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Evolutionarily we were not meant to exist in isolation. Inside, each of us has an innate fear of not being accepted or having our contribution shunned by the community we feel the strongest resonance to serving.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, the sting of rejection can pierce like a dagger to the heart. It can be extremely hard not to take rejection personally. It's our ideas, our blood and our sweat and tears that are being shown the exit.

The success of any business comes not with necessarily being the biggest, the best or the fastest. It comes from being the most innovative and adaptive. We often forget the underlying truth that rejection experiences have given birth to cutting-edge enterprises. In many cases, rejections have been the genesis of brilliant solutions that would otherwise have been unfathomable were it not for our mental anguish.

When you learn to embrace and practice certain strategies, you'll no longer fear or try to avoid rejection. You may actually look forward to it.

1.) Acknowledge and prepare for rejection.

Most of us become angry when, despite putting in eighty-percent of the groundwork, our customer then decides to work with our nemesis. Overcoming rejection actually occurs from accepting the emotions that come with it. It is OK to feel angry and frustrated. The emotional and mental weight you feel is just as valid as any physical pain. In the long run, it's more appropriate and healthy -- emotionally, mentally and physically -- that you allow yourself to feel that.

Always have a rejection-processing protocol in place. Debrief with personal and professional support people who can empathize and appreciate your experiences without passing judgment, criticizing or looking to give you immediate advice. Primary acknowledgment of its emotional and mental impact upon on you is essential.

Related: Stories of Rejection From 8 of the World's Most Successful Entrepreneurs and Leaders

Over time, examine the suite of likely reactions you have when rejection opportunities bare their unattractive heads. Know this about yourself. Being able to predict your own responses as well as build in the foresight that rejection is possible can also greatly lessen the blow. You will feel a greater sense of control knowing what may lie ahead and knowing you've got processes in place to handle it.

2.) Find the blessings in every rejection experience.

There will always be customers that do not like us, our service or our product. Whilst this prods us to do comparison reviews of systems, processes, products and service quality, put that aside for a moment. We often can't see it at the time, but in many cases, rejections are blessings in disguise.

Do you want customers who wish to discuss minute details forever and a day, only to decide they want to start from the beginning again just as you were about to sign-off on the contract? Do you want to be treated like a commodity on-call 24/7, expected to make "urgent' changes to a blueprint during Sunday evening quality time with your family?

You don't want these customers. Nobody does. Refer and direct those customers to your competitors who are open to being treated this way -- you are not.

In this respect, understand your competitors' businesses actually complement your own. Even if you provide almost the exact same service as your neighbor, remember that you are the brand and that no other individual can copy you or your reasons for being in business. Customers are smart. You might also unforeseeably impress and surprise those very customers who are treating you unprofessionally.

Related: When to Fire That, Er, Abusive or Disruptive Customer

You can put on your match-making hat and referred those clients to a business which better fit their needs? Don't become their case manager, but what if you then followed up to find out if such a customer was happy? They certainly would not forget the lengths you went to. Such service is rare. Riding the positive wave of your satisfaction from doing this will be far better than sulking and bidding them good riddance under your breath.

3.) After licking your wounds, feed your growth mindset.

Steve Jobs was rejected and sacked from his own company, Apple, in 1985. After purchasing Pixar Animation Studios from Lucasfilm in 1986, he went on to generate his first billion dollars. Today, Pixar is the most successful animation studio of its kind. Not a bad comeback, some might say.

The whirlpool of unsavory emotions we experience in rejection is often a great catalyst for stretching our minds laterally to dimensions never visited before. You might initially doubt yourself, question your competency and your self-worth but after you have weathered the storm, activate your growth mindset and start asking questions.

What can I do differently? What have I discovered about myself? What changes can I make in my business? Could I have handled the closing conversation better? What will I do differently next time? What else is possible?

Never stop at licking your wounds only to return to the status quo. Never.

Related: 14 Steve Jobs Quotes That Offered Great Advice For Entrepreneurs

Post-rejection always builds in a strategic review not just as an individual but with a relevant business coach or consultant. Just like Steve Jobs, you could be at the cusp of a discovery that will change your business and your life forever.

4.) Transform your definition of rejection.

We often ascribe rejection to something wrong with us. Start-ups and solopreneurs are particularly vulnerable to thinking rejection means they are not good enough. Even though this might resonate with you, it doesn't mean your thinking is accurate.

Invite yourself to consider, Are my deductions about myself actually true or is it the pain speaking? Does it hurt so much because I wanted so badly to be accepted and validated? Is my service or product simply not substandard but simply not the best fit for that customer?

Consciously practice thinking more about the positive consequences of your being rejected. What opportunities can you now see that have been hiding behind the clouds of the status quo? Rejection can, in fact, be a glorious unveiling of new possibilities.

Dr. Malachi Thompson III

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

High-Performance Consultant

Dr. Malachi Thompson spent more than a decade leading and developing high-performing military teams. He is the founder of Champion Leaders. He teaches proven strategies to help entrepreneurs and leaders activate their genius, lead in their field and impact the world.

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