Rejection Proof

by Jia Jiang

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
Rejection Proof
Rejection Proof

What are the big ideas? 1. Your attitude and how you talk to people can make a big difference in whether they say yes or no to you. 2. Being okay with rejection let

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Your attitude and how you talk to people can make a big difference in whether they say yes or no to you.
  2. Being okay with rejection lets you try more things, which can lead to amazing results.
  3. Every no brings you closer to a yes, so keep asking and don't give up too soon.
  4. Understanding why someone says no can help you learn and maybe turn it into a yes next time.
  5. The real win is being okay with yourself, whether others say yes or no to you.


The Power of Attitude and Persistence in Facing Rejection

  • “When I was confident, friendly, and open, people seemed more inclined to go along with my request; even if they said no, they at least stayed engaged longer to ask questions.”
  • “If a person who fears rejection were suddenly unafraid of it, what might she be capable of?”
  • “When you are not afraid of rejection and it feels like you have nothing to lose, amazing things can happen.”
  • “Through [an] experiment, I observed a very important fact: people could react to the same request very differently, and it said nothing about me.”
  • “Rejection seemed less like “the truth” and more like an opinion.”
  • “Through my rejection experiments, I began to realize that I could often get a yes simply by talking to enough people.”

The Role of Understanding and Adaptation in Overcoming Challenges

  • “That opinion could be based on their mood, their needs and circumstances at that moment, or their knowledge, experience, education, culture, and upbringing over a lifetime.”
  • “Asking why tended to clear up any misunderstanding on my part about the other person’s motivations.”
  • “Asking why can open up a whole new channel of understanding and possibility between a requester and a requestee.”
  • “Instead of sulking, just hanging on, or simply giving up after the first fifteen minutes, I treated the experience as a feedback tool, and quickly changed my tactics without abandoning the cause altogether.”

Finding Value in Rejection and Self-Acceptance

  • “One of the greatest lessons of my journey was that any rejection can have hidden upsides, if only we are willing to look for them.”
  • “Perhaps the question we should ask about an idea is not ‘How do I avoid rejection?’ but ‘Is my idea worthy of rejection?’”
  • “In the end, what we really need is not acceptance from others but acceptance from ourselves. In fact, being comfortable with who we are should be a prerequisite—not the result—of seeking others’ approval.”

24 Lessons Learned

  1. Rejection Is Human: Rejection is a human interaction with two sides. It often says more about the rejector than the rejectee, and should never be used as the universal truth and sole judgment of merit.
  2. Rejection Is an Opinion: Rejection is an opinion of the rejector. It is heavily influenced by historical context, cultural differences, and psychological factors. There is no universal rejection or acceptance.
  3. Rejection Has a Number: Every rejection has a number. If the rejectee goes through enough rejections, a no could turn into a yes.
  4. Ask “Why” Before Good-bye: Sustain the conversation after the initial rejection. The magic word is “why,” which can often reveal the underlying reason for the rejection and present the rejectee with the opportunity to overcome the issue.
  5. Retreat, Don’t Run: By not giving up after the initial rejection, and instead retreating to a lesser request, one has a much higher chance of landing a yes.
  6. Collaborate, Don’t Contend: Never argue with the rejector. Instead, try to collaborate with the person to make the request happen.
  7. Switch Up, Don’t Give Up: Before deciding to quit or not to quit, step back and make the request to a different person, in a different environment, or under a different circumstance.
  8. Give A “Why”: By explaining the reason behind the request, one has a higher chance to be accepted.
  9. Start with “I”: Starting the request with the word “I” can give the requestor more authentic control of the request. Never pretend to think in the other person’s interests without genuinely knowing them.
  10. Acknowledge Doubts: By admitting obvious and possible objections in your request before the other person, one can increase the trust level between the two parties.
  11. Target the Audience: By choosing a more receptive audience, one can enhance the chance of being accepted.
  12. Patience and Respect: Rejection is usually a hard message. Delivering the message with the right attitude can go a long way to soften the blow. Never belittle the rejectee.
  13. Be Direct: When giving a rejection, present the reason after the rejection. Avoid long and convoluted setup and reasoning.
  14. Offer Alternatives: By offering alternatives to get a yes, or even simple concessions, one can make the other person a fan even in rejection.
  15. Motivation: Rejection can be used as one of the strongest motivations to fuel someone’s fire for achievement.
  16. Self-Improvement: By taking the motion out of rejection, one can use it as an effective way to improve an idea or product.
  17. Worthiness: Sometimes it is good to be rejected, especially if public opinion is heavily influenced by group and conventional thinking, and if the idea is radically creative.
  18. Character Building: By seeking rejection in tough environments, one can build up the mental toughness to take on greater goals.
  19. Find Empathy: All rejections are shared by many people in the world. One can use rejection and suffering to obtain empathy and understanding of other people.
  20. Find Value: Repeated rejections can serve as the measuring stick for one’s resolve and belief. Some of the greatest triumphant stories come only after gut-wrenching rejections.
  21. Find Mission: Sometimes the most brutal rejections in life signal a new beginning and mission for the rejectee.
  22. Freedom to Ask: We often deprive ourselves of the freedom to ask for what we want in fear of rejection and judgment. But amazing things often happen only after we take the first step.
  23. Freedom to Accept Yourself: Our inner need for approval-seeking forces us to constantly look for acceptance from other people. Yet the people from whom we need acceptance the most is ourselves.
  24. Detachment from Results: By focusing on controllable factors such as our efforts and actions, and by detaching ourselves from uncontrollable outcomes such as acceptance and rejection, we can achieve greater success in the long run.


  1. How does changing your attitude towards rejection help you handle it better?
  2. What new things might you try if you weren't afraid of being rejected?
  3. How can understanding why someone said no help you in the future?
  4. Why is it important to keep asking different people when you're seeking acceptance for an idea?
  5. How does self-acceptance change the way you view rejection from others?
  6. Have you ever found a hidden benefit in a situation where you were rejected?
  7. How can asking "why" help you understand someone's reasons for rejecting your request?
  8. What might be the value of facing rejection on purpose, according to what you've learned?


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