I Can’t Take Rejection

by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, Clinical Psychologist and eHarmony Founder

I Can't Take Rejection

Dear Dr. Warren,

My worst fear is being rejected by a female and when I do try to talk to the person that I like, my words come out all wrong. People say that a first impression is the most important thing but with me, that is not entirely true. How do I overcome that fear with out sounding like an idiot?

–Scott, OR

The first important point for you to realize is that almost every person you’ve ever met, has had this fear at one time in their life. Fear of rejection is one of the most basic human fears. Until a person learns some skills to lessen their anxiety and communicate confidently, this nervousness will continue.

You don’t mention your age, but many people learn these opposite sex social skills as a teenager. By enduring the awkward teenage social scene many people, in a series of hit and miss episodes, discover how to relate to the opposite sex in a meaningful, confident manner.

Of course, the story is different for everyone. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself as you’d like I can offer a few suggestion that will help.

Focus on the Other Person

When meeting someone for the first time, especially someone with whom we may have a romantic interests, it’s common to focus on how you look, how you sound, how you portray yourself. This is what is called “Being Self-Conscious.” It causes you to second guess every word you say. It virtually forces you to stop being your natural self and become a cautious self-analyzer.

The key to overcoming this problem is to recognize it and make a purposeful effort to control it. When you meet someone, take a moment to focus on them. If you’re taking a woman out for the first time, just spend the first few minutes together noticing the details of her appearance. Notice her hair, the tone of her voice, the way she smiles. You can do these things in a casual way. By putting your focus and attention on her you will become less self-conscious.

Become a First-Rate Listener

This suggestion may not help you overcome your anxiety, but it will lessen how nervous and awkward you seem to be. You see Scott; people like to be around those who make them feel good about themselves. If you become an attentive, active listener, you’ll learn about the other person in great detail. This will give you plenty of information to discuss in the course of your evening together. It also lets you react to her insights and opinions, which takes the pressure away from your conversation skills. By asking questions and giving her room to open up and share her thoughts and feelings, you’ll also be communicating that you value her and enjoy listening, very rare and important traits. Once you can make a person feel valued and thoroughly understood, you will have mastered a key to personal relations. I believe that after you’ve practiced this approach several times, you will begin to discover a new and significant inner peace and confidence.

Control Your Fear of Rejection

This, you may say, seems the hardest of them all. But fear of rejection is usually determined by the perceived importance of the person we’re approaching. For example, you may get on an elevator and at the next floor a 70-year-old grandmother joins you. I’m willing to bet that if she says “Hello,” you’ll have no trouble striking up a light conversation as you reach the lobby. See, your brain doesn’t sense that there is anything at stake in that encounter and your anxiety remains low. Now replay the situation, instead of a 70-year-old getting on the elevator this time it’s an extremely attractive and apparently single young lady. She says, “Hello.” What do you do? I believe that the key to keeping your fear in check in the second scenario is telling yourself, that regardless of this encounter, you will eventually prevail. Or, as the old adage goes, “there are lots of fish in the sea.” Sure you’d like to ask this attractive woman out. You’re going to spend the few minutes you have focusing on her, asking her a question or two and listening to her answers, but if she isn’t interested that’s just fine.

You will certainly meet someone else. Scott, this mental state will lessen the important of this particular moment. Remove the pressure. Minimize the anxiety and fear. I’m confident that over time you’ll become more at ease with yourself and women of all kinds.

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