Thursday, October 3, 2013

Staying Motivated in the Face of Rejection and Criticism

Rejection and criticism are familiar stumbling blocks on the road to success that almost every professional experiences at some point in their career. They can sting, but when we know how to handle it, they can help us grow and give us strength.

If you have faced a recent rejection, or are smarting from a stinging criticism, here are a few strategies I use to stay motivated and learn from these often painful experiences. What tips do you have for handling rejection? Please share them!

I  Have Decided to Wear Rejection like a Badge of Honor
Once, rejections would send me into a tailspin. It sounds crazy, but now I view every rejection as a mark of honor. It represents stepping out of my comfort zone, asking for the business, working on being successful and striving to grow. It symbolizes my commitment to my business and demonstrates my faith in our products or services. Do I like getting them? No! Do they destroy me? Not so much anymore.

The Tribe Is Huge
One of the hardest parts of handling rejection is the isolation it can create. We can feel as though we are the only one who has ever been rejected, so it is helpful to remember that we are in good company. Many professional business people and artists have had their work rejected dozens of times before they finally found success.

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, had her work rejected by a dozen publishers on the grounds that there was no money in children’s books before one publisher finally accepted her work. Tim Ferris got 26 rejections on his book 4-Hour Work Week. Walt Disney was fired for lack of imagination, and Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life. That’s pretty fine company to be in!

I Give Myself a Pity Party
When my work is criticized, I often feel a range of emotions, including anger. Acknowledging my feelings is important for getting over the sting of the criticism, so I let myself vent a little—or a lot! I commiserate with a friend, meet with my mastermind group, and write about it in my journal or blog.

Sometimes, I feel sad as if my work is just not good enough. This is where taking an inventory of past accomplishments helps me. After my workshops, participants complete evaluations. After one particularly intense program, two attendees ripped apart the workshop. They hated the content, disliked my presentation style, and stated that they had wasted half a day. Since I was used to consistently receiving high marks, I was devastated. I began to doubt myself and the value of my programs. I was convinced the client would never hire me again after these disgruntled employees spread around their opinions.

After a good, long pity party, I looked at the hundreds of workshops I had delivered, reviewed past evaluations, looked at the recommendations I had received from my organizational clients and decided the workshop was worth saving. I spoke to my client about the feedback, and while she brushed it off, she did have some concrete suggestions for improvement and customization. Ten years later, she is still my client, and I have delivered dozens of workshops for her employees. The lesson for me was to let myself rant and rave and feel bad, then put on my analytical hat and decide if the criticism was merited.

While some criticism is unhelpful, those that add some amount of constructive feedback can be used to make improvements. Although it can be hard to accept the criticism, learning from the experience can often make work better.

One editor early in my career admonished me to stop using so much passive voice in my writing. I studied the use of passive and active voice and learned when each was appropriate. I gained more control over my writing and the tone I want to achieve. Sometimes, criticism leads to positive changes.

I Stage a Comeback
Recovering from rejection and criticism involves coming full-circle by being prepared to take another risk that leaves us vulnerable to the possibility of being rejected or criticized again; however, making a comeback is the only way to find success.

What tips do you have for handling rejection and criticism? Please share them! 

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