A few years ago, I was at an event and I saw someone whose work I admired, but whom I did not know personally. Let’s call him Jeff. I decided to start a conversation. He was chatting with one other person, so I (using my trusty mingling skills) approached, waited for a break in the conversation, and introduced myself.
He gave me the brush off, big time. I don’t remember what he said, exactly, but I got the definite impression that he was not interested in connecting. I think he might even have laughed at me. It was downright rude and I even remember thinking that he’d maybe had a bit too much to drink.
So I moved on, but I was bit bit perplexed by the disconnect between the person who did the work I found so compelling and the jerk who blew off my attempt at connecting. I knew through social media that we had a lot in common so I was reluctant to give up altogether, but since he clearly wasn’t interested in knowing me at that time, I let it go.
Fast forward about a year, to another event where group discussions were part of the program. To my surprise, Jeff chose to join my group. We both engaged in the conversation along with the others, and I began to suspect he didn’t remember having met me before.
My suspicions were confirmed when, a short time later, he contacted me about doing some work together. He turned out to be an absolute pleasure to work with. Courteous, respectful, a great communicator and listener; not to mention incredibly smart. I now consider him a part of my network, and I’ve come to know him as the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily trust or let people in easily but who is unfailingly loyal and supportive when he finally does.
So what was going on that night when he was so dismissive? Heck if I know. Maybe he’d had a bad day. Maybe I was interrupting a particularly important conversation. Maybe alcohol did have a role to play. I might never know, even if I asked him, as he probably doesn’t have any recollection of it.
It’s Not About You Unless You Make it About You
My point is that sometimes when we are rejected, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with us. It’s not that the other person thinks badly of us. They might not be thinking of us at all. They might be so wrapped up in their own stuff that we are barely on their radar.
Of course, it’s not ideal to be on the receiving end of rudeness, and if someone is rude and/or dismissive repeatedly, that’s a different story. But everyone has their bad days or their bad moments. If we have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of one of those moments, I think it’s important not to take it personally.
Chances are, rejecting us is just a small piece of whatever the heck is going on with the other person. The good news for us is that we get to walk away from their mess; either forever, or until they’re in a better place.
The important thing is not to take their mess with us. It’s theirs. It’s no reflection on who we are or how worthwhile we are to know.
So when rejection knocks you down, get right back up and try again. The problems of someone who rejects you only become your problems if you let them get in the way of you making the next great connection.