By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Facing rejection fearlessly was one of the themes I touched on during a graduation speech to the University of Washington’s Community, Environment and, Planning (CEP) graduates on June 11.
I have experienced more rejection in life than most. And I still consider myself blessed. What are some of the lessons I’ve learned?
Getting rejected shows you are willing to take risks, try something new, and attempt to do the impossible.
Talk to authors and actors and they will tell you that they are frequently being rejected. In fact, many writers have used rejection letters as inspiration. They post them on a board as a reminder that they have work to do. It’s not that they don’t feel the pain of being rejected; they simply recognize it as an important part of their journey. The feedback they receive often helps them to get closer to their goal.
For actors, the more auditions they get, the better they become in their craft, and closer to the possibilities of getting hired.
I remember approaching Tai Tung Restaurant to sell an advertisement when I started the Seattle Chinese Post. I didn’t know owner Tommy Quan at the time. All I knew was Tai Tung was successful.
To my surprise, Quan said, “No, I haven’t advertised for 30 years and I’m doing great. Why should I do it now?”
But before I left, Quan actually bought the advertisement and even paid for it.
What does a “no” actually mean?
A “no” is an open line of communication, my friend said.
A “no” is not always a “no.” It just means “not now,” “not enough information,” or “tell us more.”
Sometimes, people say “no” without knowing exactly what your proposal is or what you are talking about. They just want to get you off their backs.
The many “no’s” I have received during my decades as publisher of the Northwest Asian Weekly have turned out to be the beginning of many lasting relationships and beneficial programs.
What happens after a no?
Can you smile after people say no to you? That’s hard, isn’t it? Can you still be friends with them?
Yes, you can and you should.
Don’t take it personally. What the other party is communicating is “no” to your ideas, not you.
Getting someone from “no” to “yes” requires resilience and perseverance. You have to do your homework, and know who you are dealing with.
Turn a no into a yes
Are you aware that many rejection letters are actually form letters? When I applied to transfer to the UW as a sophomore from Oregon, I got one of those rejection letters.
The letter said that I needed to wait until after I completed my sophomore year. If you are one to give up easily, you would toss the letter in the garbage can — case closed, period.
Don’t take everything at face value. At the bottom of the page, there was a small line (which someone could easily miss) saying that I could petition if I disagreed with the decision.
That line gave me hope instantly. Petition I did. I then received another letter in May, asking me to send in the spring semester’s grades. In June, I got a letter of acceptance. In hindsight, the UW was testing my determination.
There is always room for folks who are resilient and defying the odds like me. You just have to knock harder on the door.
If you get rejected after a good fight, the least you can do is to find out why and how you can improve.
Lessons from rejection
It’s easy for people to say “no” to you if you text them or email. It’s much harder for people to say “no” when you talk to them face-to-face.
After thousands of rejections, I can tell if the “no” really means maybe, or a definite “no” that I shouldn’t pursue. What I didn’t share with you is the number of “yes” responses I got from what seemed to be a dead “no” at first.
Turning a no into a yes is how I have made a difference in the community. The number of times I get things done actually exceeds expectation.
I also learn to be gracious, especially when I have to say “no.” Or I try to find ways to help in a different way.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.