Getting to “No” You

Whenever I think about rejection, I think about that old Johnny Yune joke: Women think I’m a sex object. I ask for sex and they object.

There is a great post on Bizrelationships’s Blog about rejection. It is great not because it offers something new on the subject. It is great because everyone seems to have a similar story. It has generated comments both insightful and interesting enough to be compiled into a post of their own.

In my own comment to her post, I said: “I have been rejected in more ways – and in more aspects of my life – than I would like to remember. Each time, it hurts no matter how “used to it” I tell myself I am.” This is true. Graduating school in the 1990s, in a service industry based college town, during a recession, there was a lot of apology laced rejections – I’m sorry the position has been filled, I’m sorry we were looking for someone with more experience, I’m sorry you seem overqualified for the position, and so on.

I think the commenters on Bizrelationships’s post would unanimously agree: Rejection sucks regardless of situation or scale. Where I diverge from the commenters is the belief it is unprofessional not to provide justification for the rejection. I don’t know that there is a lesson to be learned from discovering why you were rejected by an employer. In this age of law suits, political correctness, and tenuous intra-office relations, there is no assurance that the reasons provided by an employer regarding a rejection are honest and constructive. Silence might actually be a more sincere response.

The personal growth and learning may lay in examining the occasions when you (the rejected) said, No, and dismissed – rejected – the ideas or skills of another. While I really did face a lot of rejection in my job search, there was also some rejecting on my part. I turned down jobs that were too far away or required I drive. I left jobs I thought were perpetual minimum wage dead ends. I refused to move back home to Manhattan where there would have been more opportunity to pursue the jobs I wanted. (Eventually, the situation was grim enough that I had no choice but to move home.)

A friend and I once debated the meaning of No at the workplace. He believed in the flat out NO, where I believed there needed to be diplomacy and cushioning. I posted about my guilt over not swiping a man through with my Metrocard. He responded with a post clarifying his position and making a critical distinction on how our understanding of No differed. He saw it as an issue of work flow and time management, where I saw it simply as a denial of services. We both used Penelope Trunk’s post as a springboard. Her belief was that it is a matter of focus and self discipline.

It’s the same with Why (only backwards). Where No seems final and absolute, Why is open and vague. In Bizrelationships’s post the complaint isn’t the rejection – the No – it is not knowing Why. There are a lot of reasons why people say No. And these reasons are not always sensible or rational to everyone involved. My friend and I debated No up until I read his post and agreed that we defined our time in fundamentally different ways.

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