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Rejection Therapy -The Possibility Practice in Bloomberg Businessweek

BloombergDo you fear rejection? Become a nervous wreck when the possibility arises, or try to avoid it all together? Think there is nothing else to do? Check this out: A man named Jia Jiang decided to be rejected once a day for 100 days – that’s right, intentionally rejected for 100 days straight.

His project, 100 Days of Rejection Therapy, is based on the idea that getting rejected as often as possible will help you overcome nervousness about things like public speaking, asking a woman or man out—or in his case, pitching his business to investors. He hoped to become desensitized to the word NO.

We are talking about everything from asking to borrow a dog from the humane society, or a pharmacist to photograph him on her security camera as he dances Gangnam style (success!), going to Amy’s Ice Creams and asking for “Thai Torture”, (a flavor he made up and might patent someday), to proposing himself as a live mannequin at Abercrombie & Fitch, and asking a stranger if he could play soccer in their backyard (success!) and trying to get the groomers at PetSmart to give him a trim.

He organized and participated in 94 more cringe-worthy scenarios.

Here is Jiang asking a man in the front of the line at a Thanksgiving sale if he can cut in. The man had been waiting since the day before:

Note what he says about his experience after one rejection:

“I have learned by now that the first ‘no’ should almost never be the end negotiation/discussion. Many times, the other party needs your help to collaborate on an alternative solution. Always keep your head cool, always keep your options open, always probe for more. You never know what you might discover in the end.”

Can the act of inciting rejection build up resistance to the prospect? Claire Suddath asks this question and others when she covered his story in Bloomberg Businessweek in an article called, Rejection Therapy: A Hundred Days of No”.  I was asked to contribute to the article as well.

Here is my commentary about our relationship to rejection and how we might change it:

“In our culture, people treat failure as the exception rather than an ongoing process,” says Karen Steinberg, a therapist and executive coach based in New York. What can you learn from failing at work? “Maybe you were mismatched with a particular client,” says Steinberg. “Or you don’t have the skill set you thought you did. Maybe this was a sign that it’s time to get out.”

Jiang did something central to The Possibility Practice: practice. He practiced (and practiced) entering into uncomfortable situations which would most likely lead to the dreaded feeling of rejection. He played with it, and related to it as a creative activity. He took his greatest obstacle – rejection – and turned it into discovery and possibility.

So how does Jiang feel after 100 days of rejection practice? He says, “I feel like I have swagger now.”

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1 Comment


Karen Steinberg