In Part 1 I wrote about the need to be present and observe others and to work on your own beliefs about yourself. In this article I’d like to give you some practical do’s and don’ts that can help reduce your rejection risk.
Know When to Jump In
I have vague memories of my jump-roping days. Doing it on your own was one thing, but when two people would man the ropes and you had to jump in, you had to really observe to know when you’d be able to jump in between and pick up the rhythm, and when you would just get tangled up and land on your heinie (does anyone really know how to spell that?).
As with anything, there are rules and boundaries that come into play when it comes to socializing; by learning them, you’ll have a better shot at success. Think of it as a game—you just need to learn the rules. If you want to be a part of a conversation, you need to listen (be present) and watch for cues of when you can jump in safely.
This can be challenging. You might feel self-conscious so it’s hard to listen as you nervously try to think of what to say. So you may find yourself coming up with something that often has nothing or little to do with the conversation at hand and it falls flat. In other words you start talking at someone instead of with them. There’s a difference.
So go back to Part 1: observe and be present. Asking a question or saying something like “tell me more about that” can be very effective. It also makes it more likely they will reciprocate and ask about you. It may take a while to get the hang of it so be patient.
Restrain Your Generosity
The biggest temptation to get people to like you may be to give them something or to do something for them. This may come from the goodness of your heart, but it can leave you feeling like you have to buy their friendship and wondering if they really like you for you or for what you do for them.
Observing boundaries and understanding your proper role can be very helpful here. For instance, you may want to buy someone an expensive gift to show them how much you like them. Before you do, think about whether the gift would be appropriate or not. If you’re not sure, talk to a trusted friend or counselor. It may feel good for you to give it, but the recipient may not receive it as well as you hope.
Monitor Your Motivations
In such instances, ask yourself what reaction you’re hoping for from the recipient. Be very honest here. If you’re hoping they like you more or want to spend more time with you, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. People often instinctively sense when you’re trying to meet your own needs by giving to them and may feel manipulated and pull back. I remember an incident many years ago when a male friend threw me a surprise “appreciation party”. I knew he had other motivations and instead of feeling happy, it made me feel very uncomfortable and manipulated.
State Your Needs Clearly
When you fear rejection, and believe that no one really wants to help you or has the time to, you may not state clearly what you want or need. Instead you may hint or wait until the last minute. This can work against you big time.
Most people do like to help others, if it’s within their power to do so. Learn to evaluate your request first to see if it’s appropriate and do-able for the person you are asking. For example, would you be able to take me to the supermarket one day this week? is direct and gives the other person the freedom to find time at their convenience. To wait until you have absolutely no food in the house and to ask them to go now can lead to frustration and ultimately reinforce your worst fear- they don’t want to help me. That may not be true at all- they just may not have been able to help you last minute and they may show anger to have been put in a position that was inconvenient and may have left them feeling guilty and frustrated.
Don’t Put Someone on the Spot
Along those lines, asking for what you want, or making your needs known is fine, but putting someone on the spot to meet the need or say yes when they cannot or don’t want to will ultimately lead to resentment. As in any healthy interaction, respect their freedom to say yes or no.
It’s natural to focus on what you want but be careful about becoming attached to your own desires and plans. God knows what you need and He has multiple ways of meeting those needs. So if one person can’t or won’t give you what you want or hope for, turn to God. “In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4: 6-7)
Learn from Your Experience
It’s tempting to sulk and feel sorry for yourself when you feel rejected or disappointed. You may even feel angry. That’s ok- those are natural feelings. But if you leave it there you do yourself a disservice. Attempt to learn from what happened. If it was someone close to you, talk to the person involved and ask them what they were feeling in the situation. Be open and listen without becoming defensive. You may find they wanted to help but were unable to or that your request was “over the top” or that they felt you came across as demanding. As hard as it may be to hear, that information can change your life, if you listen and commit to change. Take it to prayer. If rejection has been a longstanding pattern in your life, find a good therapist to help you change that.
God wants good things for you; investing the time and effort to change the pattern will pay long term dividends. It all starts with a decision. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll experience the happiness you’ve been seeking.