Handling Rejection

It is all too common for a guy to be interested in a girl, to spend a year pining over her without making a move, to finally get the nerve to ask her to a dance or on a date, and to be courteously let down. The rejection is hard because it is honest and it is personal. It is the disheartening culmination of a year’s worth of romantic investment.

What could have been done differently? Remember, “be proactive” is the first of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. This translates to moving quickly. I’m not saying that you ought to move rapidly in the traditional sense (which only applies within the context of some sort of relationship), I want you to do so in the “get to know each other” portion. A year is a long time to dwell on anything, especially a static infatuation. I suggest taking steps early on to find out if she reciprocates your affection. Ask her on a date. Flirt with her. If she likes you, fantastic. If not, it’s good that you found out sooner rather than later.

On top of saving a lot of time, this will give you a healthier attitude toward rejection. When you’ve only known her for a little while, you have less of a stake in the outcome. This helps put the situation in perspective. You don’t want to place too much importance on a nonexistent relationship. Instead, adopt a light-hearted attitude, be open and flexible, and see what happens. With this in mind, let me illustrate how you might handle being rebuffed. This is a hypothetical scenario inspired by my own experience.

It’s the second week of school, and you’re walking down Ocean Avenue with the vivacious girl from your physics class. As you work up the courage to express your interest in her, you’re bathing in the sunshine, singing Eminem raps in your head, and generally feeling great. You ask if she’d like to get ice cream with you that night. Realizing that you have a crush on her (girls are good at this), she stifles an uncomfortable laugh. She begins to say something about how busy she is. Ignoring that last part, you continue on and ask to exchange numbers. She starts laughing more audibly but gives you her number anyway, repeating the part about being busy because of thesis deadlines. You recognize that exchanging numbers means nothing. Perhaps you text her over the weekend to invite her to go rock climbing. Maybe she responds after the fact saying that she’s sorry she missed your text, but she was at a thing.

As polite as she was, intellectually, you know she isn’t into you. Instead of taking the rejection personally and dwelling on whether she thought you were too short, you find yourself slightly amused, curious as to why she might not be interested. Instead of hoping to get lucky with her, you’d like to get to know her and to give her the opportunity to get to know you, fully aware that this would be a privilege for her as much as for you.

Entertained by having been turned down, you aren’t embarrassed or accusatory next time you see her around campus. Maybe you make a joke out of it and continue to flirt with her, all in good humor. You continue to tease her and act as if she is hopelessly in love with you. And honestly, she’s amused as well; your interactions always lead to the two of you laughing (though probably not kissing).

So what you have lost? What have you gained? By never questioning your attractiveness or charm, you have undergone no stress. By treating her rejection as a running joke, you don’t become uneasy in her presence. You aren’t scared to make prolonged eye-contact with her. You are able to see her missteps and her human fallibility as you would a friend’s. If you still haven’t managed to win her over, then that wasn’t going to happen anyway. You came across as a fun person and portrayed yourself as her social equal. And regardless of what you did or did not accomplish, you had a good time.

-Robert