5 Ways “No” Can Make You A Better Person
Last weekend at Go Blog Social, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Hallie Wilson, a fellow Chicago blogger who writes at Corals and Cognacs. If you haven’t already gathered from my weekly motivational and get-your-shit together posts (mainly geared to myself), I’m a big fan of pushing people to be the best versions of themselves despite whatever life throws their way.
In addition to resonating with a lot of her personal experiences and current job divisions (she is currently a blogger and Soul Cycle instructor), one point in particular stood out to me. Hallie said that “sometimes the best thing you can hear is ‘no’.”
I have heard a lot of “no’s” in my life. There’s been the “no” we’re all used to as teenagers when we ask if we can stay out past our curfew or take the car on an epic weekend adventure when we’re barely able to drive. There are “no’s” in friendships, in asking for extensions on college papers when we’ve procrastinated, and when applying for jobs.
For some of us there are more heartbreaking “no’s” like the end to a relationship or being denied forgiveness from someone you care about. In my case, I heard “no” to my freedom, “no” to my career path, and “no” to the life that I had originally planned. And you know what? It hurts in the moment, but you have two decisions—you can either wallow and stagnate in the hurt or you can take a step back. Take a breath. Realize that “no” is not the end of the world. In fact, it might just make you a better person.
1. It makes you stronger
In 2011, it took me three months to get a job as a receptionist. Given that I could no longer work in a pharmacy, the only job I had had for eight years, I applied to whatever jobs I could. Being so newly back in the outside world, I had to deal with background checks and explaining why I had no work history for the last nine months. I was repeatedly denied jobs due to my past and forced to continue submitting resumes day in and day out. Applying for jobs became my new full-time job.
What I learned is that I couldn’t give up. I needed to find a job to help contribute to our living expenses and I needed to be working because I’m not the kind of person who can sit with nothing to do. I learned to take those rejections with a grain of salt because objectively I did look like a mess on paper, but I knew my worth and value to any potential employer and I was determined to find someone who would be able to see that.
2. It opens you up for different opportunities
When you are stopped from continuing (or starting) down a path, you’re forced to look at more than just that path. Imagine you are walking through the woods and you come upon a tree that has blocked the trail you’re on. Where before you may have been fixated on that one trail, you suddenly stop and look around. Is there another option that will lead you to your destination? Sometimes you may find another trail that you overlooked and sometimes your only option is going back the way you came. Either way, it’s important to fully explore before you turn back.
I knew I wanted to write as part of my career. I had no idea what I was doing when I looked into freelancing and I quickly heard “no” or received no response at all when I tried applying for opportunities. This forced me to actually research what editors and companies were looking for and I was able to fine tune my pitches and find other opportunities where I could use my writing. I could have stopped at those initial “no’s,” but I looked for those different paths and was soon writing all over the place!
3. It makes you a more creative thinker
Sometimes we do everything we’re supposed to do and we still end up with a “no.” My best examples seem to revolve around employment, so let’s stay on that train for a minute. You’ve found a job listing online, you submitted your resume, and you don’t hear anything back.
Think about unconventional ways that you can get this company’s attention. Maybe send in a video resume that showcases your worth and ideas for the company. Research the person you would be working for, the mission of the company itself, and any other information that would be relevant to include in a thoughtful email. Steps like these show that you are investing in their business and that you would be an asset to have on the payroll. Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box to get that “yes.”
4. It allows you to take a look at yourself
It’s so easy to blame. It’s exponentially easier to point the finger at whoever told us “no” and believe that they are wrong, uneducated, or don’t understand you. Believe me, I’ve been there and it’s a much easier place to exist than one where you actually listen to someone’s feedback and say “could they be right?” or “what part did I play in this?”
Let’s talk about relationships. I’ve been through a number of them and have walked away with some very valuable lessons. In the more mature ones, where two people actually communicate, I’ve received some negative feedback and some firm boundaries that require I hold up a mirror and take a good look at the person staring back. It may take some time for me to digest, but if my goal is to have the best relationship that I can, then I need to take some responsibility for myself and my actions.
If there are behaviors that I can change for the better, then it’s important for me to work on those things. If there are things that go against my values and ideals, then sometimes it’s important for me to be able to say “no” back, which brings me to my next point:
5. It makes you think about what you really want
How bad do you want it? If we go back to jobs for a minute, being turned down for one causes you to decide how much you really want it. If you’re lackluster about an opportunity, then chances are a “no” is going to dissuade you from going above and beyond. If, however, you have your heart set on that dream job, hearing “no” is going to cause you to figure out what you need to do to get it.
When I moved to Chicago a year ago, I completely changed careers. I decided that I wanted to write and be a personal trainer. Since we had moving expenses and were down to one income, a personal training certification that cost hundreds of dollars wasn’t as easy to thrown down. It required me to think outside the box and I started a GoFundMe page for friends and family to donate to as a Christmas present.
Finding employment was also tricky since I didn’t have any professional experience. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and talked to as many people in the industry as I could for tips and advice. I found a studio I loved and emailed the owner to meet up for coffee. Soon after, I started working there at the front desk in exchange for a membership, then started an internship program, then was teaching classes within a few months!
If it’s something you really want, you will find a way to get there. Sometimes it takes a “no” to find out what you’re really made of.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
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- When has hearing “no” helped you in your life?
- How do you handle rejection?