John Malouff: When it comes to rejection, your response is key

No one likes being rejected. Whether the rejection is social or professional, the rejection stings.

Jack Canfield knows about rejection. His idea for a nonfiction book was rejected by 100 publishers. Nonetheless, he kept trying. After a total of 144 rejections, he found a publisher.

His book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, sold millions of copies and led to many successful spin-off books.

Jack showed one type of response to rejection: He kept trying. Many excellent writers have faced rejection after rejection when seeking a publisher for their first excellent book. J. K. Rowling and John Grisham fit in this category. Fortunately for them, and us, they persisted.

Another common reaction to rejection involves adjusting the goal or the target.

One of my friends who lost a boyfriend to another girl simply moved on to another guy. A social win can help calm the tempest caused by a social loss. On the dark side, rushing into a new relationship sometimes heaps suffering on top of suffering.

A third response to rejection involves following the sour grapes example of a famous tale by Aesop.

Remember the fox who could not reach the delicious-looking grapes, not matter what he tried? He decided that the grapes were probably sour and walked away. By downplaying the lost hope, he made himself feel better.

A friend of mine used the sour grapes method in getting over a lost lover.

This method involves thinking of all the negative qualities of the person – all the characteristics we ignore when we are in love. The lost lover no longer seems so appealing. The loss no longer seems so great.

I used this type of method several years ago when I became a finalist for an academic position at Johns Hopkins University.

I wanted the job because the university receives billions of dollars annually in grants for research and because the students are top notch. I muffed the interview and never received an offer.

I later thought of how lucky I was not to have that particular job, in which no one before stayed for long.

I still feel lucky even now.

A fourth reaction to rejection involves adjusting our behaviour to avoid further rejections.

Unlucky in love? Try being more agreeable, more reliable, and more fun. Rejection can provide a learning opportunity.

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.