If you want to succeed as a safety leader, it’s not enough to focus solely on logistics and data management – you have to get good at “soft skills” as well.
To help you hone your craft, we’re writing a series of articles each highlighting a different soft skill. Today’s topic is getting better at hearing the word “no.”
How to handle a “no”
Picture this: You’ve come up with a great idea for a new training program. You’ve crunched the numbers, created the perfect PowerPoint, and delivered a pitch your boss simply can’t turn down.
You’re feeling confident — that is, until your boss utters the two-letter word you’ve been dreading: “No.” In a split second, your ego deflates like an old birthday balloon.
Rejection is never easy, but in the right light, it can be something positive. In fact, some of the top people in sales, business, and negotiation around the world will tell you that you should actually welcome the word “no”. It can be painful, but learning how to accept and even appreciate being turned down can help you move forward in your career.
1. Get past the initial sting of rejection
Regardless of whether it’s personal or professional, rejection hurts. It touches on one of our deepest biological fears, and can actually trigger the primal fight-or-flight response. In short, our brains are hardwired to lash out or run from rejection.
Before you act, take a minute to just sit with your emotions. The simple act of taking a deep breath can shift your brain from a primal stress response to a more rational state of mind. After this, it’s much easier to think past that animal part of your brain that’s panicked and impeding thoughtful analysis.
2. Mull it over
Once you’ve recovered from the initial shock, take some time to reflect on what went wrong. Was it a timing issue? Are people too busy on other projects?
Also think about how you presented your idea. Did you explain it clearly? Was it well-oriented to the audience? Did you connect your idea to the decision-maker’s goals? In the case of evaluating a chemical inventory system, for example, there may be issues present that someone else sees that you do not.
It’s never easy, but taking the time to understand why you were turned down will benefit you in the long run. You’ll learn how to avoid these pitfalls in the future, and maybe even find an opportunity to fix an issue and try again.
3. Understand their perspective
Of course, it’s possible to do everything right and still get rejected. Maybe you had a fantastic idea, but it doesn’t align with your department or organization’s goals. Or perhaps there are other higher-priority issues that demand resources and attention. If your boss shoots down your idea for a new training program, for example, it might be because they are thinking about how much time will be required to carry it out (time that will also be taking you away from other efforts).
Instead of getting defensive, try to adopt the other person’s perspective. Better yet, ask them for feedback on why your idea didn’t work, and when you do, make sure you're actively listening. A series of studies showed that trying to imagine another person’s perspective doesn’t always work (in fact, it can backfire). Instead of perspective-taking, then, you might need to do some perspective-getting.
By looking at things from a different point of view, you’ll gain a better understanding of why they said “no” in the first place — and again, perhaps develop a better way to approach the problem.
4. Move forward
As we said before, rejection isn’t always a bad thing. Getting turned down for a promotion might be the push that's needed to start your job search and find an employer who values your talents. Or, having your idea shot down might force you to come up with an even better solution — one you wouldn't have thought of before.
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs — including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Arianna Huffington, Jeff Bezos, Walt Disney, and Thomas Edison — were rejected many times before they found success.
Instead of dwelling on rejection, here’s what successful people do: they look at each defeat as a failed experiment. When a scientist performs an experiment, they learn from each result — whether successful or not. If one thing doesn’t work, they simply move on and try something else. This test-and-learn approach can help you see each setback as a learning experience instead of a catastrophic failure. If you're having a hard time figuring out a good next forward step, we've got a great article on solving open-ended problems.
Hearing the word “no” is never easy, but following these tips can help soothe the sting. In fact, you might discover that this minor bump in the road led you in a much more productive direction.
- Get past the initial sting. Take a deep breath to quell the mental and physical effects of the Fight or Flight response that can be triggered from rejection.
- Mull it over. A “No” can mean a few different things, and it can be helpful to understand exactly why this particular proposition was rejected.
- Understand their perspective. Better yet, ask them for their reasoning in a non-confrontational way. This can even lead to an improved, more trusting relationship.
- Move forward. While it can be tough, don’t let your “No’s” hinder you. Take what constructive things you can from the “No” and use it to climb to bigger and better heights.