Learning to Embrace Rejection

To get clients and become a successful business developer, you have to put yourself out there. As human beings, we don’t usually like having to put ourselves out there, because that means being vulnerable, which we try to avoid as much as possible since we don’t want to face rejection. Rejection is no fun! We prefer certainty and control, not vulnerability.


But you know that as a business developer, you can’t hide. If you do, you may be the best-kept secret in town, and what good will being a secret do you when it comes to getting all the business you want for your practice? Next time you catch yourself putting off reaching out to a prospective client or following up on an email because you are worried about getting a “no,” use these steps to build up your resilience to rejection:

Step 1: Accept rejection as a necessary part of the process

Believe it or not, the first step is as simple as just accepting that you may get rejected and that it may (or more likely will) feel uncomfortable. By accepting that it will happen (and probably a lot) in business development, you lessen some of the fear of it, because you don’t push against it as hard.

Step 2: Welcome and embrace rejection

In business development, you want to welcome the “no’s.” Your business development journey will be so much smoother and less painful when you learn not to take rejection personally, and when you build grit and resilience to it over time. Yes, it is a lot easier said than done, because no one likes the feeling of rejection, but with practice, you can do it.

To accomplish it, engage in the process of periodic desensitization. In psychology, desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative, aversive or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. The more you put yourself in situations where you will be rejected, the less impact it will have on you over time. You will become less and less sensitive to it, and as a result, no longer feel the urge to avoid it.

This is exactly what Jia Jiang, the author of Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection, did. In his book, Jia documents his process to overcome his aversion to rejection by embarking on a 100-day journey, during which he willfully sought out rejection daily. One of his key discoveries was the realization that he can build up his rejection muscle to steel himself against the negative emotional impacts of rejection and become more fearless. As a result, he found that he was no longer derailed by a single setback.

In business development, rejection is not only something to expect but to welcome. Welcome rejection? This may seem odd, but this is a key “inner game” mindset shift. One reason is that the more “no’s” you get and learn from, that means you’re that much closer to a “yes.” So next time you get a “no,” get excited about it!

Secondly, it’s important to realize that any “no’s” you may get for your legal services takes nothing away from who you are as a human being. It’s never a “no” to you as a person. In fact, most of the time, it’s not even about you. That’s one of the biggest lessons you can learn. People take things too personally in general, but most of the time it is about the other person and what’s going on in their own life or business, or their own limiting beliefs or discomfort.

An unsuccessful sale or ability to secure a meeting, or someone’s refusal to make an introduction for you, is only that. It’s not you failing as a person. Your worth as a human being is not dependent on whether you have success with a deal or opportunity.


Step 3: Appreciate and learn from rejection

If you can analyze and learn from your failures, then they become the most important learning lessons on your path towards success. In fact, failure is what paves the way to success. When you adopt a mindset that involves you learning to fail to ultimately “win” instead of taking your failures personally, then you will be on a path to faster successes.

Someone in a situation that requires courage, skill or tenacity (as opposed to someone sitting on the sidelines and watching), has been referred to by Theodore Roosevelt as “the man in the arena”:

It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs,
who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst,
if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

—Theodore Roosevelt, excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910

So the bottom line is: When you get knocked down, get back up. As many times as you get rejected, keep following up, coming up with new strategies, trying new approaches. Most lawyers stop. Most quit when they don’t get fast results. Failure is necessary. Failure leads to success. The more rejections you get, the more successes you will ultimately have. A life without challenge is a life without growth so embrace the challenge. Embrace the rejection.

About the Author

Marla Grant is an attorney, certified coach and co-founder of 20/20 Leadership Group, an international coaching and training firm that helps attorneys enhance leadership and business development skills. Contact Marla at mgrant@2020lead.com.

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