Metaphors Gone Wild: Hearts and Rejection

Although most of us echo Agatha Christie sentiments when it comes to rejection--"Everybody said, 'Follow your heart.' I did; it got broken."--rejection comes in many forms. In the business world, proposals are the metaphoric falls in love. And, they, too, can be rejected.

If your proposal is rejected, there are several ways to respond.

  • o Accept the decision and be mature enough to realize not every idea from every person can be implemented. 
  • o With this (and all other rejections), keep in mind the wisdom behind Karl von Clausewitz's recommendation: "Beware the brilliance of transient events." 
  • o Learn as much as you can about the reasons behind the rejection. Profit from your knowledge. 
  • o Meet with decision-makers to learn what you can do differently next time. 
  • o Revamp the proposal and resubmit it. 
  • o Ask to implement your idea on a trial basis. 
  • o Wait until there's been a major shift in the cultural-winds. Then resubmit the 
  • proposal. 
  • o Discuss the rejection with someone in a position higher than your own. Ask for his or her advice.

Consider, too, the four elements that are critical for maintaining positive relationships in the workplace: Environment, Feedback, Input, and Output. "Environment," of course, refers to the climate in which the exchange is taking place. "Feedback" is comprised of specific responses you provide to specific actions on the part of the other person. "Input," by contrast, is not necessarily reactive. More likely, it will be a proactive set of facts that will help shape the "Output" produced by the other person.

If you want to maintain a good relationship with the rejector, consider doing at least one specific thing to optimize an interpersonal exchange in each of these areas.

Stress makes nerves raw, tempers short, and responses abrasive. Sometimes, our proposal is rejected only because the other person is having a bad day. Ideally, you are one of those people who can move past the initial setback; you are one of those who can concentrate on a goal, seemingly oblivious to potential idea-killers in your environment. You know how to delay gratification. Think about this example of the importance of delaying gratification in order to achieve a goal; it comes from research done to illustrate the importance of delaying gratification. was the one conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel fifty years ago at a preschool on the Stanford University campus. Children were told they could have one marshmallow immediately or two later, if they could just wait until the researcher returned from an errand.

Not surprisingly, as the children were tracked in this longitudinal study, researchers found the children who waited were, as adolescents, much better at coping with frustrations. The one-marshmallow subjects were later found to be less flexible, less inclined to be decisive, and more stressed than their counterparts.

When you're tempted to abandon a good idea because someone has rejected it, remember the marshmallow research. Think of the long-term goal you want to accomplish. Repeat the word "marshmallow" in your head from time to time and use it as a spur to move past the rejection that might deter others, but not you.

Source: Marlene Caroselli


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