Rejection Therapy

This past Saturday, the Matchmaker Logistics team gathered for a day-long staff retreat followed by our annual Christmas party. As we reviewed our progress in 2014 and set new goals for 2015, the discussion turned to a highly charged topic: fear of rejection and how it impacts our lives, both professionally and personally.

“I really needed a new office chair; the old one was hurting my back”, shared one employee, “but I was afraid to ask for it.” (At the urging of a co-worker, she finally had, and I immediately authorized the purchase of a new chair.)

It seems we’re all afraid to ask for certain things: whether its asking our server to correct an error on our lunch order, asking a customer an important question, or asking our crush out on a date. We watched a fascinating (and funny) 12-minute TedX talk by a man named Jia Jiang. As a teenager in Beijing, Jiang was inspired by a visit from Bill Gates to come to the US, become an entrepreneur and build his own company. All was going well until investors rejected him. Unable to move past the rejection, Jiang decided to undergo 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. Every day, he would purposely set himself up for some form of rejection by a stranger.

Some of Jiang’s experiments included: asking a stranger to borrow $100, walking up to strangers and asking them for a compliment, and asking to make his own sandwich at a Subway. After hearing about his journey and the surprising lessons he learned, we were each charged with undertaking our own rejection therapy exercise during our lunch break.

Rejection Therapy Bob Matchmaker LogisticsSince I was hosting the office Christmas party at my home, I needed to run a few errands on my lunch break, including gassing up the car. I grabbed a light-up reindeer nose and decided that I would try asking the first person I saw at the gas station to put on the nose and take a selfie with me. I pulled up, got out of the car, and immediately noticed a young, attractive woman pumping gas at next pump. “Oh great”, I thought to myself: “She’s going to think I’m trying to hit on her.” I gathered up my courage and got ready for the ask, which I could not preface with any explanation (one of the rules of rejection therapy!). “Excuse me”, I said. She looked over. “Would you mind putting on this reindeer nose and taking a selfie with me?”

What happened next was shocking. As if I’d simply asked for the time, she answered nonchalantly: “Sure. Just give me a sec.” Stunned, I waited while she finished pumping gas. She put on the nose, stood beside me, mugged for my cell phone and that was that. “What’s this for?”, she asked. “A personal project”, I replied (as per our instructions). “Oh”, she shrugged. “Well, good luck.” I thanked her, we exchanged holiday greetings and it was over. Fully prepared for rejection, I had asked a total stranger for something kind of crazy, and she immediately said “Yes”. It was that easy, and it felt great!

When we returned to swap stories after lunch, we were amazed at how many “asks” didn’t get rejected! My team asked for everything from free merchandise to hugs to photo ops with strangers–and, most of the time, they got what they asked for. They also got a few weird stares and some rejections along the way, but somehow even the “no’s” felt okay. One of the lessons: whether you get a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ doesn’t really matter; what matters is asking the question!

Later that weekend, I remembered one of my father’s old jokes, a classic tale of the ultimate rejection. Here it is:

Three married couples die and arrive at the pearly gates. St.Peter tells the first husband, “I can’t let you in. You let alcohol run your life. You even married a girl named Sherry.” Dejected, the husband turns and walks away.

The next married couple steps up, and St.Peter tells the husband, “Can’t let you in sir. While you were on earth, you allowed money to run your life. You even married a girl named Penny.” The husband hangs his head, turns, and walks away.

Having overheard the two previous conversations, the husband of the third couple turns to his wife and says, “Come on, Fanny, he’s not going to let us in either.”

Risk rejection this weekend,