In your quest to learn from rejection, it’s critical that you get your head around the concept that “no” may not be the final answer. In fact, “no” is situational response that depends upon how the people involved are feeling at that moment. There are three time-sensitive conditions to consider before any action is called for: 1) No, not now; 2) No, not then; 3) No, not ever. It’s important to understand the true meaning behind each condition before you respond.
Let’s say for example that you’re out shopping. You don’t know if the store has what you’re looking for, so when the salesperson asks: “Can I help you?” You reply, “No, I’m just looking.” Does that mean you don’t intend to buy? No. It just means you need time to look around before deciding. When you find the item, you’ll be ready to buy.
If the salesperson accepts your “No, not now” reply as the final answer, he or she is likely to go away feeling rejected and miss out on the sale when you find what you’re looking for.
If you leave without buying anything, that could be perceived as a “No, not then” because you may not find the item anywhere else and ultimately come back for a second look.
Or, you may have found the item, but were disappointed in the cost and left the store in search of a lower price.
What lessons can the salesperson glean from this experience? He or she would be wise to keep track of the number of people who behave in this manner and bring it to the attention of the store manager. The manager could interpret the information as “No, not ever” and just accept the rejection as final. Hopefully, the manager saw the rejection as a learning experience and put the item on sale with the expectation that customers like you would respond to a bargain.
Look for the “Why” Behind the “No”
Rejection is not a random act. There’s always a reason for it, so look for the “why” behind the “no” before you respond. For instance, a savvy salesperson in the example above would have noticed your reaction to the price. Having found the “why” behind the “no” he or she could have made the sale by offering a discount or showing you something comparable at a lower price.
Let’s examine a job interview situation where rejection is known to be a common outcome. Now that you understand the importance of finding what’s behind the “no” see if you can find the “why” in the following true story.
The human resource director of a rapidly growing manufacturing company in a remote part of the country received a call from a recruiter that a recent MBA graduate from a top tier university would be in town for a short time and would like to arrange an interview. They had been looking for just such a person and were eager to see what this fellow had to offer.
Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, the director hastily assembled a selection committee to convene early the next morning. The interview team was looking forward to meeting such a highly qualified candidate.
Although the candidate’s answers to their questions demonstrated a solid understanding of how he would perform the job, his responses were brief and unenthusiastic. Throughout the interview he appeared disinterested and sat expressionless as if he was bored and didn’t care.
Not wanting to waste any more time, the HR director thanked the candidate for coming and closed the interview. After a short discussion, the committee concluded that the candidate was obviously not interested in working for them and decided not to offer him the position.
Sometime later, the HR director learned that a rival company had hired the candidate who was exceeding all their expectations. A follow-up call to the recruiter further revealed that this stellar candidate did poorly in the interview because his father had just died, and he had flown in overnight to arrange the funeral. At the recruiters urging, he agreed to the interview because he was looking for a job in that area to be near his grieving mother.
So, who is to blame here: the candidate for not explaining his circumstances or the interview team for rejecting him based solely on his behavior during the interview?
No doubt, you could share stories of similar situations like the one above from your work history. If you were to dig a little deeper into the cause of rejection in those instances you would likely find that the parties involved didn’t like or trust each other, so neither side put much effort into providing clarification to the other or making an effort to search for the “why.” Likability and trustworthiness are major factors in determining how much effort those on either end of the communication channel are willing to invest in trying to understand each other.