Getting Rejected (and why it’s OK to get a “No”)

Are you scared of getting rejected? You’re not alone in thinking that getting rejected is one of the most painful experiences you’ll have as an adult. In fact, fMRI studies show that getting rejected can activate the exact same areas of the brain that physical pain activates, leading many of us to feel a deep sense of hurt after we’ve been ostracized.

The same goes for being told “no,” which is a form of social rejection that many of us are terrified of experiencing. Being told no can shake us to our core — whether it’s in the context of a nasty breakup or being told we didn’t get approved for a raise at work, it hurts all the same. To understand why getting rejected hurts so badly, we have to go back to the past a little ways… 

Or a lot.

In-groups and out-groups in the bronze age

Way back, when your great-great-great-great-great-great (the list could go on) grandfathers and grandmothers were still learning how to use metal and building some of the first intentional fires, there was a value to the fear of rejection. After all, being ejected from your tribe was equivalent to death: without others to help you along, you wouldn’t survive long in the perilous wild.  

For these reasons, it used to make sense why getting rejected was as painful as physical harm. It was to be avoided at all costs. We’re long past the bronze age — and now, getting rejected still hurts like it did when it was a life-or-death matter, but the consequences aren’t the same anymore.   

In fact, being afraid of being told “no” can actually be more harmful in the modern age than it is helpful. Think about it: have you ever stopped yourself from asking for something you really needed just because you were afraid of what the answer would be? It probably made you feel pretty lousy afterward. What’s more, you didn’t get the outcome you desired. 

So: how do you break the “no” cycle? Is there a way to get comfortable with being told no?

Well… what if you tried to get others to tell you no?

How to play the “no” game

The “no” game is pretty simple. If you’re interested in building confidence and losing the fear of getting rejected, your job is to go out and collect as many no’s as you possibly can by asking people for things that you don’t think they’ll give you. 

This could be anything. You could ask people for a lift downtown, a hundred dollars, a chore or favor, a free bottle of wine… the more egregious, the better! And why is it better to ask for outrageous things? Because the way to win the game is by getting as many no’s as possible. 

In other words, the goal is to be rejected over and over again. And the reason why that’s how you “win” the no game is because you were bold enough to ask. You asked people and got no’s more than anyone else playing, and that puts you above everyone else who feared getting rejected. 

The interesting side effect of the no game is that often times, people get told “yes” far more often than they might think! We’ve had clients who thought someone would say no to their ridiculous request, and then ended up getting apple pie… a year’s supply of wine… a free gym membership… the list goes on.

Why hearing others say no is a good thing

What’s the lesson here? There’s two: the first is that by changing your thinking patterns, you can change what the word no means to you. Does no mean anything about you as a person? No. Does no need to be taken personally? No. Does “no” have to hurt, debilitate or prevent you from asking for something again? No. 

So, that’s lesson one. And lesson two is that if you ask for things often, you might be surprised at how often you’ll get a yes instead of a no. Because if you don’t ask, you’ll never know — you can’t get a yes if you say nothing, so saying nothing is the equivalent of being told no… 

Only it’s you telling yourself no, instead of someone else. 

Only you can change what no means to you

If you’re a high-performing executive, a committed professional or simply someone trying to improve your own sense of personal growth, learning how to be okay with others saying no is crucial for your own development. The next time you feel afraid of what others might say, try playing the “no” game and see what happens.

Who knows? You might just be told no… or you might be told yes, and a thousand interesting things will come to pass. 

For more coaching advice and tips for building confidence, let’s schedule a time to talk

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back™. You are joining us today for Fridays with Ferne, where I have my daughter who comes in and joins me for a discussion on anything at all, anything under the sun. And so sometimes she brings cases, sometimes she brings me challenges, sometimes she brings me her own challenges that she might be confronting. Ferne, welcome. What do you have on your mind today? [00:00:36] Ferne Kotlyar:Hello, hello! And happy Friday.

[00:00:38] Kim Ades:Happy Friday.

[00:00:39] Ferne Kotlyar:Today I wanna bring something up that we talked about a few weeks ago. We talked about rejection and there's this concept that practice makes for perfect, so what about getting better at being rejected? I know that you have a game or a concept, I don't even know what you would call it, but it is titled the no game, so I guess it is a game [laughs] and I wanna open up the floor today and ask you about that. What's it about? What do you do? What are the rules? How do you play?

[00:01:14] Kim Ades:Okay, well, you're gonna talk about the no game and then we're gonna talk about rejection a little bit more, okay? So very, very briefly. We play the no game with our clients. How does the no game work? We ask our clients to go out and deliberately collect as many no's as they humanly can by asking people for things that they don't think that those people will give them.Could be anything. "Hey, can you give me a lift downtown? Hey, can you give me a hundred dollars? Hey, can you scratch my back? Hey, can you do the dishes for the next week? Hey, can you give me a free apple pie? Hey, can you..." whatever it is, right? And the way you win the game is by collecting as many no's as possible.Why is that the way you win the game? Because it means you're bold enough to ask. Often enough to get many, many no's. But what we've discovered when we ask our clients to play the no game often enough, and we've asked often enough, is that our clients end up asking for things and getting them. So instead of getting a no, they are actually, sometimes, every once in a while getting a yes and they're blown away, they're shocked, they're surprised, they're baffled. One of my clients got 14 bottles of wine, another one--

[00:02:33] Ferne Kotlyar:For free?

[00:02:33] Kim Ades:For free!

[00:02:34] Ferne Kotlyar:Wow!

[00:02:35] Kim Ades:Another one got a whole bunch of cakes. And so she was shocked, she was surprised. And so the lesson is... What's the lesson? It's two lessons. One is, what do we make a no mean? Does it mean anything about us? Do we need to take it personally? Does it have to hurt us? Does it have to debilitate us? Does it have to prevent us from asking again the next time? Because when we've heard no 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times, does it mean that the six time... What's the point, we shouldn't bother? Or should we keep asking? And so what we really wanna teach people is that getting a no doesn't have to be hurtful, doesn't have to hurt us to our core or affect our sense of self. A no is just a no, doesn't mean anything.But if we ask for something or things often enough, we might get very, very surprised that sometimes we'll get a yes. And here's the thing, Allan, my husband says this all the time: if you don't ask, you will never know. You'll never get a yes if you don't ask.

[00:03:40] Ferne Kotlyar:Absolutely.

[00:03:41] Kim Ades:And so the idea is to have fun asking, not making it such a heavy lift. Play with it, turn it into a game and see how many no's you're gonna get, but also see how many surprisingly yeses you're gonna get.

[00:03:58] Ferne Kotlyar:And so, do you think some of this has to do with expectations? So people get disappointed when they think they're gonna get a yes, but if they think they're gonna get a no, then it's not as disappointing because that's what they're expecting anyway.

[00:04:09] Kim Ades:Right. Well, when you're expecting to get a no and you get it, and that's your goal, now getting a no is fun. Right? So think about it, what's my goal? My goal is to get many, many, many, no's. If my goal is to get many, many no's, I'm gonna ask many, many things that presumably I'm gonna get a no for. But every once in a while, someone's gonna give me a yes, and I'll be like, "wow, I guess I just had to ask often enough. I had to be bold enough. I had to be not afraid to ask". And so what we're doing is we're neutralizing the no, right? We're making the no not so poignant, not so impactful, not so hurtful. And at the same time, we're also boosting up a person's boldness and making them a lot more comfortable hearing the no and asking for things that are even outrageous sometimes because we do get surprised with a yes every once in a while.

[00:05:06] Ferne Kotlyar:What's the most outrageous thing that any of your clients have asked somebody? Not that it had to be a yes, but just the most outrageous question.

[00:05:16] Kim Ades:I mean, people asked for a free vacation, people asked for a car, people asked to borrow things, people asked for all kinds of wild things.

[00:05:29] Ferne Kotlyar:That's fun.

[00:05:30] Kim Ades:It is fun. But I really do wanna talk about an interesting thing that has happened to me this past week, 'cause it's in the realm of rejection, I would say. So for those of you who don't know, I'm on TikTok. I post a TikTok every single day, I've been doing that since December 31st, 2021. I made myself a promise and I said, "I'm gonna post something every day. Even if it's not brilliant or not so insightful". And the idea was just to get comfortable posting on TikTok to understand how it worked. So it wasn't supposed to be so related to coaching or anything like that, just post something every day. So at the beginning I started posting a "question of the day" because I like questions and I thought it would be a really cool way to interact with people.

[00:06:16] Ferne Kotlyar:You do?

[00:06:16] Kim Ades:I really do.

[00:06:17] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles]

[00:06:17] Kim Ades:And so I start posting questions like "hey, what do you do when you can't sleep at night? How do you handle that? Do you have a strategy?" Things like that. I thought that people would respond, but they really didn't. And so I thought, "okay, I'll try a different strategy". And for me, it's a bit of a game in understanding human nature. What causes people to react and engage and respond? So I'm experimenting with different things. So I tried a new strategy. I tried recording my mother-in-law doing things. Well, that got a bit of a better reaction. I posted the time when she gave us a big, huge bag, a black garbage bag as a wedding anniversary gift, and I opened it up and it turned out to be toilet paper. So I recorded that and I put it on a video. That was good.

[00:07:04] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles]

[00:07:05] Kim Ades:But really every single day, I've been getting anywhere from 300, 400, 500, 800 views, right? Nothing huge. One day I did a video where I was chopping green beans, and I didn't even video myself, just my hands chopping those green beans. And I asked a question, the question is, do you keep that little pointy end on your green bean or do you chop it off? Lots of views, 22,000 views! I thought, "wow! I'm onto something here. Maybe I should post more food videos". And so I tried doing the same thing with snow peas... I only got 300 views. So I don't know, what's the difference between snow peas and green beans? I really don't know.

[00:07:51] Ferne Kotlyar:TikTok algorithm.

[00:07:53] Kim Ades:TikTok algorithm. But anyway, last week I was in Florida and again, every day I'm posting something. I was sitting on the beach, there's a whole bunch of seaweed in front of me, like, a lot of seaweed. More than I've ever seen at that beach, and I've been at that beach for the past 25 years. So it kind of struck me as being a little unusual and a little bit more than I've ever experienced. And all of a sudden, a yellow tractor came by to clean up the seaweed, but I didn't call it a tractor, called it a truck because sometimes words don't come to me so quickly, they don't come to me so easily. And so I took this video and I said, "oh, look! The seaweed truck is coming! Look at all this seaweed. It's literally everywhere! And here's the seaweed truck. Thank you, seaweed truck, for cleaning up all the seaweed" and I videotaped how the seaweed truck was doing its work. And it turned out that it wasn't really picking up the seaweed, but it was kind of like turning it around, mulching it and sticking it under the sand. And so I asked a question, "is this making things better or is it just spreading it around?" That was the video. I thought it was an interesting video. It wasn't political, it wasn't highly charged, it wasn't anything. But I got 191,000 views! And about 150 insults.

[00:09:20] Ferne Kotlyar:Ow.

[00:09:21] Kim Ades:Talk about rejection, right?

[00:09:22] Ferne Kotlyar:Can you tell us what some of the people said?

[00:09:24] Kim Ades:Oh my goodness. They said, "you sound like a Karen". And you know what? I grew up, my best friend was Karen and it bothers me every time I hear that. Like, why is Karen such a terrible, horrible, awful person?

[00:09:42] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, that and Susan.

[00:09:44] Kim Ades:And why do they choose that name? So "you sound like a Karen. Your voice is annoying. You're so entitled. You're an idiot. Go home if you don't like the beach", on and on and on. It was endless and it still continues to go on. "You sound like a baby. If you don't the ocean then go to a lake". Oh! I have a few favorites. It was a man who said "my two year old saw this and knew that it was a tractor. The next time you go to the beach, you might wanna take a picture book with you, or go to a library". He's insulting me 'cause I didn't say the word "tractor". So many people corrected me for saying "truck" instead of "tractor".

[00:10:25] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] Controversial.

[00:10:25] Kim Ades:And you know, what's hilarious? You look it up. A tractor is a truck, by the way.

[00:10:31] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:10:31] Kim Ades:But that's not the point. Another person said "you sound so oblivious to life". Me oblivious? I think I'm the least oblivious person I know!

[00:10:41] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:10:42] Kim Ades:Right? But okay, I'm oblivious. So they just hammered me, one insult after the other, after the other, after the other.

[00:10:50] Ferne Kotlyar:Some people swore at you, no?

[00:10:52] Kim Ades:They swore at me, they called me names. And let's go one step further, somebody decided to steal my identity.

[00:11:02] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, that was scary.

[00:11:04] Kim Ades:So on TikTok, my handle is kimades. Well, somebody created a handle that was kim.ades, they stole my picture, they stole my videos and then they were telling me that I was stealing their identity!

[00:11:16] Ferne Kotlyar:That's so scary.

[00:11:17] Kim Ades:It's still happening, it's still going on. And so, you know, I've been working hard every day to post something on TikTok and now something blows up, but I experience it with a great, great level of huge, massive level of rejection. The question is, what do I do with it? Do I feel the pain? Does it hurt me to my core?And the answer is no. For me, I examine it as a lesson in human nature, I'm trying to learn something from it. What am I learning from it? I'm learning the power of anonymity. That if any one of these people were with me at the beach, they would enjoy my video, they would probably play along with me.

[00:12:03] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah.

[00:12:04] Kim Ades:They wouldn't have the audacity to insult me that way.

[00:12:07] Ferne Kotlyar:Not in person, no.

[00:12:08] Kim Ades:Not in person, but when you are hidden, it's easier to be insulting, it's easier to be hard on someone mean. In my opinion, inappropriately mean.

[00:12:21] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, definitely.

[00:12:23] Kim Ades:And so, I'm still trying to figure out what to learn from this, but for me, it's a huge lesson. It's like, I wanna learn about human nature, I wanna learn about what causes somebody to react so strongly, what causes somebody to think it's okay to talk to any human being like that.

[00:12:40] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah.

[00:12:41] Kim Ades:And let me step into a coach's role, like what's going on in your life to make you even think that way.

[00:12:51] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, absolutely.

[00:12:53] Kim Ades:Right? What beliefs do you have that make this okay?

[00:12:59] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, and it's really not just you, it's such a common thing, not only on TikTok, but Reddit and... Whatever, Quora, I don't know all the other anonymous social media sites. People are horrible and cruel.

[00:13:14] Kim Ades:They're cruel, very cruel. And so, some people take it very badly.

[00:13:19] Ferne Kotlyar:Absolutely.

[00:13:19] Kim Ades:Some people really are deeply, deeply affected by it. You know, I went back and I listened to my voice and I thought to myself, "okay, so it's a little annoying".

[00:13:29] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] No!

[00:13:30] Kim Ades:[Chuckles] But it's my voice, what am I gonna do about it?

[00:13:34] Ferne Kotlyar:But it's not.

[00:13:35] Kim Ades:I can't trade it in. [Whispers] I can't talk quietly. [Normal voice] Right? What am I supposed to do? It's my voice. It's what I was given in life. And so can I give it that much weight? Can I pay that much attention to it? I cannot, it's not a good thing or a healthy thing for me to do. And besides, all of these people don't know anything about me. Like, nothing about me.

[00:14:00] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah. [00:14:01] Kim Ades:And so it's very important for me to separate myself from this feedback, look at it with some degree of objectivity, right? Like just... Does any of this make sense? Does any of this ring true? Did I break a law? Did I cross a line? Did I do anything wrong? And when I decide that I'm good, I'm good. I didn't do anything wrong. I was being playful, I was being funny, I was being outrageous in saying that the seaweed is literally everywhere, right? A little bit of exaggeration...

[00:14:31] Ferne Kotlyar:Completely outrageous.

[00:14:32] Kim Ades:Right? [00:14:33] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles]

[00:14:33] Kim Ades:A little bit of exaggeration for the purpose of fun. But if I could look at this and just sort of step back and go, what can I learn from this? What am I getting out of it in terms of lessons about people, about human nature? And to be quite frank, how do I bring this to my coaching? And here's already a conversation where I'm bringing it to my coaching. How do I bring this as a topic for discussion? And we're bringing it here.

[00:15:04] Ferne Kotlyar:But I think you also learn that controversy is the thing that gets you views. People like controversy, they like debating if they have conflicting opinions, that's when you get a discussion.

[00:15:15] Kim Ades:Yeah, but what is the controversy about seaweed?

[00:15:19] Ferne Kotlyar:Good question.

[00:15:20] Kim Ades:[Chuckles] Right?

[00:15:21] Ferne Kotlyar:You got me there. [Laughs]

[00:15:22] Kim Ades:Honestly! You know, sure, controversy gets discussion going, I didn't realize I was so controversial.

[00:15:32] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs] [00:15:33] Kim Ades:I could be more controversial deliberately, but that was not intended to be controversial.

[00:15:37] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah.

[00:15:38] Kim Ades:So, my point is that when people have opinions, they're really none of our business. What other people think, what other people say has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with them and what they're grappling with, what they're struggling with, what their view of the world, what they feel comfortable doing behind the screen. What they gave me had nothing to do with what I put out on TikTok at all. It had everything to do with what's going on inside of them. And it's sad to me that there's so much...

[00:16:18] Ferne Kotlyar:Anger.

[00:16:19] Kim Ades:Anger, so much vitriol that's going on out there in the world, but it's fascinating to me.

[00:16:28] Ferne Kotlyar:Well, I think it's really strong that you can just dismiss it and even laugh at it. Not everybody can do that, I know a lot of people take it to heart, like you said.

[00:16:36] Kim Ades:Yeah. [00:16:37] Ferne Kotlyar:And there are a lot of people on TikTok, so...

[00:16:39] Kim Ades:A lot of people on TikTok, my question is what should I put out next? What's next on my TikTok?

[00:16:46] Ferne Kotlyar:Maybe try leaves, they might be just as controversial.

[00:16:49] Kim Ades:[Chuckles] Maybe, but hey, if you guys are listening and you have an idea for me to post on TikTok, please send them my way. [Chuckles] I'm trying to come up with new ideas and I can use some help, clearly.

[00:17:03] Ferne Kotlyar:[Chuckles] Or not! You got a lot of views.

[00:17:06] Kim Ades:Or not. But the point is the only moment that rejection matters is when we are rejecting ourselves. So when other people reject us, we get to decide how deeply it matters to us and what we do with it.

[00:17:22] Ferne Kotlyar:Absolutely.

[00:17:23] Kim Ades:So, a lot of times, most of the time, what other people think of us is really, truly none of our business, and that's what I have to say about that.

[00:17:33] Ferne Kotlyar:Great. Well, thank you so much!

[00:17:36] Kim Ades:Thank you. Good question. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to discuss my TikTok.

[00:17:41] Ferne Kotlyar:Yeah, I know you really wanted to put that in somewhere. [Chuckles]

[00:17:44] Kim Ades:I know! I called it The Seaweed Saga. If anyone wants to check it out, go check me out on TikTok. Again, it's kimades.

[00:17:51] Ferne Kotlyar:And make sure you get the right Kim Ades.

[00:17:53] Kim Ades:Yeah. And make sure you make me a friend and say something nice.

[00:17:59] Ferne Kotlyar:[Laughs]

[00:18:00] Kim Ades:All right, we'll catch you next week.

[00:18:01] Ferne Kotlyar:Bye!

[00:18:01] Kim Ades:Have a good one! Bye!

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