There’s no two ways about it: rejection sucks.
It can sting to get turned down for a date. It can dent your ego when your partner’s not in the mood. And it can be crushingly heartbreaking to face the end of a relationship.
But rejection is unavoidable. It’s a horrible, painful, unpleasant part of life that we all have to face.
So here’s how to deal with rejection when it comes your way. Here’s everything you need to know about hearing ‘no’ gracefully, walking away with your head held high, and looking forward to the better days ahead.
Allow yourself to be rejected
It sounds counter-intuitive, but hear us out: it’s vital that you create a space in which it’s easy for someone to reject you.
Whether it’s your partner, a date, a mate, or someone you’re talking to on a dating app, it’s crucial for them to be able to say no to you—and for you to be able to hear it.
Why? Because the alternative is that someone feels uncomfortable about speaking up and goes along with your request anyway because they fear saying ‘no’.
That means they’re not giving consent, and it’s never acceptable to put someone in that situation.
“Ask yourself: are you setting up an environment for consensual interactions, or setting up one that risks coercive ones?” says sex coach Georgia Grace.
Georgia recommends regularly making sure that you’re respecting boundaries in sexual and non-sexual settings, which will help create an environment in which everyone feels like they can easily say ‘no’.
“For example, if you're on a date and someone tells you they want a non-alcoholic drink, don't try to convince them otherwise or belittle them for their preferences,” she says.
Likewise, don’t push topics that the other person doesn’t want to discuss, and don’t force physical interactions of any kind—even if it’s just hugs or hand-holding.
Practise responding kindly
Don’t respond to someone’s ‘no’ with, “But why?” or, “Can’t you just do it once?” or, “I’ll make it worth your while!”.
Begging someone to change their mind, bargaining with them, threatening them, or even just deciding to annoy them until they give in and say yes is jerk behaviour at best, and predatory at worst.
‘No’ is a full sentence, whether it’s in response to being asked on a date, to perform a sexual act, or anything else.
“If someone isn’t into you or something you want, instead of taking it personally, making them feel bad, or going on the attack, say thank you,” says Georgia.
You could say something like:
“Thanks for letting me know, it’s great to know where you’re at.”
“Thanks—I don’t want to do it either, then!”
“Thanks for telling me. If you feel comfortable, is there something else that you’d like to do instead?”
And as the old saying goes, if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. If you can’t imagine yourself saying ‘thank you’ to someone who’s said no to you, it’s better to say nothing at all than to say something cruel or to pressure them.
Don’t beat yourself up about it
There’s plenty of reasons why someone may not want to do something, and very few of them are judgements on us.
Your partner may not feel like having sex because they’re tired, stressed about a work presentation the next day, or maybe they’ve just had a big meal and can’t imagine moving from the couch.
That cutie on the dating app might say no to a date because they’re swamped with uni work or busy with family—whatever their reason, it may not be related to you at all.
Don’t get down on yourself about being rejected, and don’t fall into the trap of negative self-talk whenever you hear ‘no’.
If you find that rejection stings more than it should, or if you’re feeling awful after getting turned down for something you really wanted, find a positive outlet and work through your feelings.
“Find ways to support yourself where you’re not making others feel responsible for saying no,” says Georgia.
“It can be helpful to process your response with some solo inquiries, like writing about it, talking with a friend, or getting professional support.” Help is always out there when you’re feeling low.
Focus on moving forward
Rejection sucks, but it doesn’t have to suck forever.
If you’re still in a relationship with the person who has rejected you, think about the ways in which you could move forward together and build the relationship up to something great.
If your relationship with the person has ended—they’ve broken up with you or said no to a date, for example—take some time to do some self-care and refresh yourself before getting back on the dating scene again.
Although rejection can feel personal, targeted, and downright awful at times, reframe your thinking on it if you can.
Instead of wondering if you’ll be alone forever, be grateful that your ex has freed you up to go out there and meet the perfect person for you.
Instead of feeling hurt that your partner doesn’t want to try that sexy thing in bed, be excited that you can work together to find something new that you’ll both love (who knows what it will be? The anticipation is kind of sexy!).
Getting rejected can be heartbreaking at times, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Look up, because there’s a bright, exciting future out there for you—we just know it.