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Living with and Learning from "No"


Hearing “no” stings. None of us ever pours our time and energy into a project or proposal, crosses our fingers, and hopes someone rejects it. After hearing this tiny little word, we leave the room dejected, confused, and disappointed.

However, these feelings of defeat are not uncommon. Ask any professional woman, and odds are, she’s had similar experiences. While instances of failure aren’t unique, how you respond to it can be. Here are a few tips for surviving – and thriving – after “no.”

Exit with Grace

It’s difficult, but resist the urge to get defensive. More than likely, the person who told you “no” didn’t like to say it, and listing out all the reasons he or she is making a mistake won’t get them to change their minds. Instead, thank them for their time and ask a few questions on what changes you can make to improve. Their answer might surprise you; it might be something simple like timing or budget, or you might need to go back to the drawing board. Either way, you can take it as an opportunity to improve.

Dig a Little Deeper

Take the feedback from your meeting and look at it objectively. Share it with a friend or trusted colleague and ask for their opinion as well. Use this as a chance to do a little additional market research. Put yourself into the customer’s shoes. Once you know your starting point and what you need to reach your objective, figure out what you need to do to get there, and begin filling in the holes.

Try Again and Lean In

After you’ve removed the hurdles and polished your rough spots, don’t be afraid to take another stab at it. People like knowing their words have made an impact, and customers like feeling they’re getting a custom proposal. If you’re successful, great! All the extra work paid off. If you hear “no” again, it’s ok, too. The real answer might be “not now,” or it may be a signal to you to go to Option B. It’s certainly easier said than done, but do you best to remove emotion from the experience, and chalk it up to education.

One of The Source’s favorite muses, Sara Blakely, experienced a lot of rejection: she failed the LSAT (twice), was turned down to play Goofy at Disney World, and spent months pounding the pavement trying to sell her shapewear prototypes. Fast forward a few years, and she is now one of the world’s wealthiest self-made women. Take advantage of each no as an opportunity to sharpen your skills, fine-tune your product or service, and learn about your market. Your most recent loss could lead you to your next success.

For more inspiration on this subject, click here, here, and here.