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Life Lessons

Why Does Rejection Hurt So Much?

Bill Porter knocked on lots of doors in his life, and most of them were slammed in his face. Such was the life of the now nearly extinct door-to-door salesman.
But Porter never stopped knocking.
Most people in his position would have quit, not willing or able to handle all that rejection. Somehow Porter pushed on, and it made him a legendary performer for home products company Watkins Incorporated. His story put him on the TV show 20/20, and inspired a movie called “Door to Door.” Did we mention that he had cerebral palsy?
Porter’s case raises two questions related to — and vital to — hiring the invisible superstar.
First, why does rejection hurt so much?
Second, why can some people deal with it better than others?
It turns that there are some pretty easy answers to the first question.
This article in Psychology Today helps explain why rejection is so painful. Author Guy Winch lists 10 facts about it, the first being, “Rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. fMRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.”
If rejection is the emotional equivalent of stubbing your toe in the middle of the night, it’s no wonder why most people prefer not to risk getting turned down in business, love or anywhere.
As for the second question — why do some people handle rejection better than others — that is the jackpot issue for anyone trying to make a strong hire. In this area, the answers are not quite so clear-cut. Here author Amy Morin discusses how mentally strong people deal with rejection. She says that, among other things, they admit that it hurts. “Rather than suppress, ignore, or deny the pain, mentally strong people acknowledge their emotions. They admit when they’re embarrassed, sad, disappointed, or discouraged. They have confidence in their ability to deal with uncomfortable emotions head-on, which is essential to coping with their discomfort in a healthy manner.”
Whether that’s how Bill Porter dealt with having doors slammed in his face is something we may never know.
But he never stopped knocking.


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