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How to Overcome Fear of Rejection When Speaking to Senior Management

Sunday, April 30, 2023

There are two underlying, most fundamental fears that we experience during our personal and professional lives:

  • Fear of losing that which we impulsively desire and therefore seek. Our brains naturally associate this fear with survival, as it is parallel to starvation.
  • Fear of coming in contact with that which we instinctively want to avoid. Our brains also associate this fear with survival. This time, it is parallel to being eaten.

All other fears that we can experience ultimately stem from the essence of these two fundamental fears.

Including the
fear of rejection.

A large part of the fear of rejection is the fear of experiencing hurt or of being judged as insufficient at something important to us. As a result of that fear, we automatically try to avoid unpleasant experiences that may make us experience it, and thus protect ourselves.

Hence the fear of rejection stems from the fear of coming in contact with that which we instinctively want to avoid. It is, in essence, a prey response.

Unfortunately, the things we do to protect ourselves do not serve us. It is for this reason that we must overcome fear of rejection.

Some of the things we do to protect ourselves involve behaviors like withdrawing from other people, not expressing ourselves and our ideas, or procrastinating on or even outright rejecting good opportunities. These are actions to instinctively avoid what we perceive are negative experiences of being rejected.

There are three keys to overcome fear of rejection:

#1: Re-Evaluate It

Many people forget this key thing about rejection: there’s no danger in it. It may feel bad for a while but remember that there is no clear and present danger just from being rejected. It can’t physically hurt you.

You may not put yourself out there because you’re afraid to be told no and be rejected. Did you ever think about the fact that not ever putting yourself out there is an automatic no, and isn’t that exactly what you want to avoid?

Start expressing yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Give yourself the opportunity to be told yes. Even though you have all this internal resistance built up to avoid a potential rejection, you cannot know for sure that’s what is going to happen. You are focusing on that outcome. The very thing you are rejecting could be exactly what you need to be doing to advance your career and better your life. This is why we need to learn how to deal with rejection.

#2: Redirect It

Change direction. Move away from the arena of rejection and into the arena of acceptance, which is the opposite of rejection. You are in complete control of the actions that move you forward to where you want to be.

If senior management rejects your ideas, they are merely looking for more certainty. That’s why they have the objections that we perceive as rejection. Our natural response to this is to feel defensive, which at times can be expressed poorly, or some people may not express it at all. We may feel the need to defend ourselves when we feel rejected, which creates even more adversity and leads to disappointing results.

Remember that you can choreograph the whole conversation simply by asking questions, but you must ask these questions out of genuine curiosity. This is how you really stay in control of the conversation. When you ask senior management questions out of genuine curiosity, their answers become their ideas.

If you only defend yourself because you are afraid of being rejected, then it’s easier for senior management to disagree. However, if they answer your questions, and your questions become their ideas, they can’t reject their own ideas.

#3: Reject It

No one can reject you without your permission. Be consistent, be committed, and you can overcome every resistance. Be aware of why you are so fearful of rejection. Your fear is only a symptom of the greater problem of dealing with rejection.

Many people say they’re afraid of rejection, and therefore they don’t express themselves or raise their hand to take new opportunities. What they’re afraid of is that if it doesn’t end in rejection, then they must take the next step onto a new path.

Being told yes means that they would have to work harder mentally to level up compared to if they stayed where they are. It is easier to work hard physically than to work hard mentally. Even as ambitious career professionals, we often choose to work hard physically so we can avoid working hard mentally. That mental work is much harder than physical work.

We’re programmed by the educational system to be disciplined, keep our heads down, and work hard, which in many ways makes working hard mentally more challenging. Taking that next step can lead to hard mental work that may challenge us in new ways, which is what we fear.

Implementing these steps will not necessarily eliminate all your fear around speaking to senior management. But what they can do is provide a step-by-step guide to follow.

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© Mastery Insights Inc. All Rights Reserved