PR is a field that is littered with rejection. Media pitches go unanswered, stories fail to get circulated, clients come and go without reason, and prospects ghost you. The beauty of rejection is that it makes the wins even sweeter, but it’s also why so many practitioners burn out and leave the profession. Nonetheless, rejection in PR, as in many other industries, is inevitable. What’s not inevitable is how you handle it, so here are three tricks to overcoming rejection with grace.
The Theory of Relativity
First, put the rejection into perspective remembering that everything is relative. Will this rejection matter in three months? One year? Or five years? Likely not. Sure, it might matter in a week or two, mostly just because it could still sting and because it’s disappointing.
But typically, rejection has a shelf life that is significantly shorter than the lifespan of your business and your tenacity.
Interpersonal research identifies people as having one of two mindsets to explain how they overcome rejection. We are either a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. Basically, people who have a perspective that is fluid find greater success and happiness over time. Those with growth mindsets view rejection as an opportunity. Thus, they realize that moments of rejection are fleeting and not fixed, and indirectly support the theory of relativity.
Second, open up the lines of communication and ask for feedback without the expectation of reversing the rejection. Listening without a motive can be enlightening. Often, when you have nothing at stake, you hear and notice a lot more because your judgment isn’t clouded and you’re not distracted. Asking for feedback can also increase trust among people, which can lead to future opportunities for you. Remember, that especially in PR, attitude is just as important as ability and without feedback, neither can continue to develop as needed for success.
Reconsider and Readjust
Finally, reconsider the rejection. Maybe it was only a rejection because what you proposed wasn’t right – not because you weren’t right. Try going back with a different approach. I have done this several times with clients and achieved great results. In fact, it’s usually my second idea that’s the best, so I really have to keep that in mind. There are also some people who believe that “no” is merely a suggestion and/or an opportunity for further discussion. With reconsideration comes the need to readjust. Perhaps this was not the first time your idea was rejected? In which case, that could be a signal to adjust your idea, or your approach.
Most importantly, do not ignore the rejection. Research indicates that the number one way to turn rejection into resilience is to acknowledge all of the emotions rejection makes you feel, label them, and then seek the truth behind every situation so you can move forward.
How SASC Handles Rejection
I face rejection regularly, and it’s fine! No, seriously, it’s fine and it’s not fine in a passive-aggressive, it’s not really fine, kind of way. But, just because it’s fine doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting – it does. So, I have a couple of “rejection rituals” I practice, in addition to the three strategies I just shared. First, take the rest of the day to wallow, if needed, but do not take more than that. Do whatever you need to do the rest of the day to help you cope. Sometimes, that means retail therapy, other times it means pouring your energy into another project, and usually, for me, it also includes watching bad reality television. Downward social comparison is real, y’all!
Second, talk about it. Sharing your rejection with a trusted friend/colleague/mentor can lead to some of the most reassuring conversations. Hearing how others have experience and overcome rejection always makes me feel better and sharing stories is very cathartic.
Lastly, head to the kitchen and indulge. Sometimes I need a glass of wine to calm me down after rejection, and this can also help me work through the three strategies above more easily. Other times, I need carbs to cope, and once in a great while, I need a short-stack of pancakes #noonesperfect. But, restricting yourself during a period of rejection can actually make it harder to bounce back so just momentarily give-in, then move onward and upward.