Ms. Dunlap says she regularly makes calls to negotiate her cable and phone bills, a habit she learned from her father during childhood. Sometimes she gets what she asks for, and other times she doesn’t. But the important part of negotiating, she says, is not so much about having the grant requested, but getting comfortable with making the request to begin with.
“It’s not that I’m doing it wrong, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” she said. To her, learning to face rejection is like training a muscle. “The more you use it, the more comfortable you’re going to feel,” she said. “That way, when the no does come, it’s less about what you did wrong and either a matter of ‘not right now’ or something that isn’t a fit.”
How to overcome fear and learn to embrace rejection
Working your rejection “muscle” is easier said than done. Whether you have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow you to spend hours on the phone negotiating bills, or you’re the family breadwinner and can’t jeopardize a steady paycheck to pursue new career opportunities, avoiding rejection might seem like your best option.
Ms. Barnes says the biggest factor to help ease the fear of taking risks is to prepare with what you have already. A healthy savings cushion can add a layer of much-needed comfort, should things not work out the way you hoped.
“Let’s say you see an opportunity at another company. You want to put away as much money as possible” before changing jobs, she said. “That way, if you go to that company and it’s not a good fit, you have the resources to leave and look for something else.”
Along with that, Ms. Dunlap recommends participation in activities where money isn’t directly involved. Having a background in theater, she says the rejection in a safe space helped her to get acclimated to hearing no, which carried over to subsequent professional endeavors.
“The joke in the theater community is that you’ll hear 99 nos for every yes,” she said. “Get involved in things where you might hear no. Try theater or improv. Ask to be featured on a podcast or speak at an event.”
“It’s all about vulnerability,” she said. “That’s how we overcome perfectionism and get more comfortable with risk. There are so many ways to get used to hearing no, without going from zero to 60 in a situation where it means your business is at stake.”