Lesson 1, Topic 1
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Copy of It’s Not Personal! How to Handle Rejection

It’s Not Personal! How to Handle Rejection

It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of someone saying “no.” And it’s totally normal to feel badly after this kind of response.

But try not to take it personally—remember all of the reasons why the person may have ignored your question or answered with a “no”. They may be stressed about their job, have difficult things going on in their own lives, or think that they don’t know the answers to your questions. Most of the time, if someone cannot meet with you or give you the information or help you need, it does not have to do with you personally.

Here is a trick for handling rejection and disappointing social interactions. It’s called the pie chart exercise. If you notice yourself feeling badly after you reach out to someone—maybe feeling especially anxious, or depressed, or angry–try this trick.

The Pie Chart Trick for Handling Rejection

Step 1: Identify your Feeling

Try to figure out the thought that is attached to your feeling, and write it down. Try to pick the thought that passes through your mind right as you’re feeling the most anxious, sad, or angry about the interaction. Why is Aya feeling so anxious? She sits down with a pen and paper and realizes that she is having the worried thought, “Maybe Dr. Ruth thinks I’m a bad writer, and that’s why he isn’t taking the time to help me.”

Step 2: Brainstorm for Reasons

Brainstorm other reasons for the same event, no matter how unlikely they seem. Try to really “think outside the box” and brainstorm as many reasons as possible. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a good friend or family member help you with this step. Write down all of the possibilities you come up with and add them to your pie chart so that they share the full circle of possibilities with your original thought.

Let’s imagine Antoine reaching out to his former English teacher, Mr. Ruth for a letter of recommendation but not hearing back. He feels anxious when Mr. Ruth doesn’t respond.

He gets his friend to help him think through other possibilities for why Mr. Ruth was so impatient and unhelpful toward her. Here are some things they come up with:
Why did my Mentor say no?

Notice that the pie chart exercise does not mean that his original thought definitely isn’t true…it is technically possible that Mr. Ruth thinks Antoine is a bad writer and that’s why he didn’t seem excited about their conversation.

But a lot of times, our minds jump to a single conclusion in response to difficult social interactions, and become convinced that our first guess must be a fact. Even if our “head” tells us the idea is false, our anxious, sad, or angry “gut” will often believe it’s true. The pie chart exercise helps us to remember that there are always tons of reasons why someone acts the way they do, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with you!

And sometimes, the pie chart exercise can help us figure out new ways to act in response to a disappointing social interaction. If Mr. Ruth really does think Antoine is a bad writer, it could lead him to the conclusion that he should just give up on pursuing his interest in creative writing. But if, instead, Mr. Ruth was just really busy or stressed about teaching his next class, then it could be really helpful for Antoine to talk to other adults who have more time and are able to help him think through opportunities that are a good fit for him.

Pie Chart Worksheet

Pie Chart Worksheet is in your Materials Tab. Use it when you’re feeling bad about social interactions in your life.