When I was eager young Advertising Sales Exec working in newspapers in London I was trained to ask prospective clients what were called “open ended questions” so I could get good information on their business in order to fully understand their advertising needs. Open Ended questions start with How, Why, What, Where, When. Stuff like “ Where do your best customers come from? What was your most successful advertising campaign?” It’s the foundation technique for sales, start with Open Ended questions and then as the conversation progresses narrow it down towards a sale with Closed Questions which can only be answered with a Yes/No response.
I had totally forgotten about this little gem of ancient sales wisdom until I had a run of clients last week who had all experienced some form of rejection: from the mummy mafia, a prospective business partner, a romantic interest and from classmates.
They were all very upset, and really, really stuck in their upset. They just couldn’t figure it out: why, why, why would someone treat them this way when all they had shown was kindness/friendship/shared business knowledge/love/support?
Over an over they turned it in their minds, wrestling with the rejection; the sudden cruel “didn’t see it coming” rejection. They were all very miserable indeed. For one the rejection had actually happened years and years ago, but yet it was still as fresh as yesterday because she still hadn’t figured out the “why”.
Here’s the thing. This endless questioning of the problem “Why did he/they/she reject me when I didn’t do anything wrong? What did I do to be treated this way? How long will this rejection last? What could I have done differently” etc. etc. are all open ended questions…but…asking them of ourselves can only mean we go round in circles. There is no satisfactory answer because we don’t have it. Asking these questions in our own mind endlessly just compounds the question and makes us miserable.
I have had my fair share of rejection, including one in recent months that just floored me. I simply could not believe that I was being rejected so comprehensively having given and offered so much. I could barely sleep for the incessant turning it over in my mind.
However, that way madness lies. I call it Chasing The Why, and it can be a sure fire route to misery.
Here’s the thing. We live in a society where science and technology are king, and every drama on TV eventually shows us whodunit. We always get to figure out the why. Which is comforting, and neat. But, in real life, with matters of people not machines, it’s just not so neat. Sometimes……newsflash…YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHY! Because the person who has rejected you won’t tell you, or because they don’t even really fully understand why they did it themselves. No, it’s not neat, and the open-endedness is very frustrating, but that is reality. Sometimes we just never get to know why.
So instead of chasing what we don’t know (“Why doesn’t she like me anymore? Why has she turned against me? Why did he leave”) attention and energy is better turned to what we DO actually know. She has chosen to spend time elsewhere. He has chosen to leave. She has chosen a different opportunity.
And you know what? That is that person’s right to choose that however hurtful/frustrating/inexplicable that may be. They had the option to choose us, and they didn’t. That’s a fact. It’s a closed question. “Did they choose you? No. Okay well, that might suck, but it’s a fact. So, drop Chasing The Why because if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s just not figureoutable. It’s a fact. They chose a different option. End of story.
So, now you get to choose a different option. Choose to move on, choose not to have your rejection button pushed daily by removing them from your facebook feed or your phone or whatever, and focus your attention on what you DO have in your life, and what you want more of. Better grades at school, meaningful friendships, a better business, love and partnership. This person is not the only way to bring those things into your life. Get creative and focus your time, energy and attention on other options.
Rejection is hard. But it’s also a part of life. In sales we were trained that rejection is a perversely good thing…for every person that said no we were one step closer to someone saying yes. Learning if not to welcome rejection but just to see it as part of the road to success was a key part of every good sales execs mindset. And so it is in life. Reframing rejection as something that paves the way to closer, better friendships; business partnerships; deeper love; more exciting opportunities is smart. Chasing The Why is a waste of energy. Accept a choice has been made. Grieve what could have been and move on. Stop Chasing The Why, and start Choosing What You Want Instead.