Can You Accept Rejection?

In this “everyone gets a medal” “all ideas are equally valuable” and “there are no mistakes, just happy accidents” world we’ve created around ourselves, one valuable tool is often missing in many people’s arsenal[1]: The ability to accept rejection.


I come from an entertainment world where you are rejected far more than you are accepted. In my case, much more[2]. Handling rejection becomes almost a defining quality. Understanding and embracing rejection is a huge part in an organization’s success and those who handle better than others often succeed at a greater pace.


Ron Ashkenas has an article at the Harvard Business Review touching on this very topic[3] But I’ll skip to the good parts:

In light of these behaviors, leaders need to encourage a more conscious and healthy toleration of rejection. While all employees should feel comfortable offering ideas, raising issues, and making observations — they should do so with the knowledge that they may be rejected. If they get discouraged or angry about not having their ideas accepted, they might shut down and stop contributing. Similarly, if employees feel so self-important that the organization should never turn them down, their sense of entitlement will make it difficult to drive constructive change.


 It’s easier to talk about learning from rejection than to actually experience it. Rejection often triggers painful emotional doubts about our own competence and self-worth, so we either try to avoid it or pretend that it doesn’t matter. A more constructive approach is to remember that rejection can be beneficial: It can force us to come up with more ideas, redirect us to different paths, and keep us humble and open to learning.

 Let you’re people know how important their ideas are, encourage them to share them but also prepare them for the instances when they are not accepted so they can be ready the next time.


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