Top-quality people get rejected every day. It can happen to anybody, anywhere. It’s part of life. Show me a person who claims never to have been rejected, always to have been accepted, and I’ll prove you have discovered a person who has been living a very insular life or, more likely, is having difficulty remembering the truth.
Some people react to rejection much better than others. They accept it and move on to other pursuits. These are not second-class citizens; many of them are bright, accomplished, well-behaved and attractive. Yet circumstances develop that place them in a position where another or others must make a judgment about their acceptability.
The arena often is related to business, starting with the job interview. Generally there are more applicants than there are positions available, so there will always be more rejected than accepted. Decisions like that are difficult to make, and the results often are impossible to understand.
Years ago, I worked on the rewrite desk of a daily newspaper, and from that vantage point I was able to observe many job interviews conducted by the city editor during the relative quiet of Sunday mornings. I chatted with many of the candidates either before or after their interviews and was able to form my own opinion. I was almost always surprised about who was hired and who was rejected. From that experience I concluded that acceptance and rejection often were a matter of chance or considerations unrelated to ability.
Rejection is surely a major factor in personal relationships too. Need I say more? How painful it is to accept, without wincing, the rejection of a member of the opposite sex.
For writers and aspiring writers, opening the envelope (or the e-mail) containing the infamous rejection slip causes extreme pain. The process can create serious self-doubt. I suffered in the early days while collecting my share of rejection slips, but I can derive some solace from the realization that most of the magazines that rejected my work have failed and disappeared while I am still writing.
Salespeople are the individuals who face rejection most often. Whatever they are selling, they must be resilient enough to understand they cannot make every sale. Rather than moping, they must be positive, believe in their product and move on without tears. If they are unable to withstand rejection, they will fail and eventually become candidates for a more ominous form of rejection: They’ll be fired.
These examples are drawn from experience and observation and have created in me the feeling that the sooner a person learns to deal with rejection, the better he or she will be able to function. Frankly, I felt I had ascended to that level, but recent events have cast grave doubts on my own status.
I have been the victim of a relatively new and growing form of rejection. I have been labeled a spammer without justification, spurned without the opportunity to explain myself. It is difficult for me to admit this in print, but I do so in order to provide some comfort to others who may suffer the same indignity.
The first incident developed when I sent an e-mail to a college classmate, a man who was always open-minded and approachable. When I received no response, I decided to use the old-fashioned method. I called him and he answered. He said he was glad to hear from me. No, he said, he never received my e-mail. I volunteered to resend it, which I did. He called me the following day to report I had been categorized as spam by his filter and consigned to the spam file. He retrieved it and sent me a long response, including an apology.
A few days later, I had a similar experience. After receiving no reply from a friend who is a partner in a national consulting firm, I phoned him. He had no recollection of my e-mail, and I suggested he check his spam file. Bingo! It was diverted to the rubbish. My self-concept, already bruised, was further tattered after I sent an inquiry to several executives of a large firm, seeking their opinions for an article. Several days later it became apparent that my e-mail had been intercepted and routed to the Dumpster.
Those episodes were a painful introduction to the new threats of rejection lurking along the information superhighway. Ah, well, I’m getting over it.
Dick Hirsch is a frequent contributor to the Opinion page.
10/30/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303.