Rejection Therapy: To Overcome This Fear, Assertiveness Required

There’s a new game in town, and it’s called Rejection Therapy. Assertiveness required. But more on this later.

In the 1970’s I climbed on the assertiveness training bandwagon and tried to teach myself as well as my clients how to say what we need to say. (Way before John Mayer and Sara Bareilles each penned musical words to this effect.)

How can assertiveness be learned? Therapy generally helps, but you can also get lessons from a book. One of the newest ones out there is by Conrad and Suzanne Potts and is called Assertiveness: How to Be Strong in Every Situation. Visit the authors’ website for more info.

But the go-to book way back then was Manuel J. Smith‘s When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: How To Cope Using the Skills of Systematic Assertiveness Therapy (1975). “Are you allowing your mother-in-law to impose her will on you?” asks the publisher. “Are you embarrassed by praise or crushed by criticism? Are you having trouble coping with people? Learn the answers in When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, the best-seller with revolutionary new techniques for getting your own way.”

Here’s the author’s “bill of assertive rights”:

I: You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.

II: You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.

III: You have the right to judge if you are responsible for finding solutions to other people’s problems.

IV: You have the right to change your mind.

V: You have the right to make mistakes—and be responsible for them.

VI: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t know.’

VII: You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.

VIII: You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.

IX: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t understand.’

X: You have the right to say, ‘I don’t care.’

I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t care. Things we all want or need to say at times but might find difficult, especially in certain circumstances.

Assertiveness works both ways, though. And what happens when someone else asserts a rejection of us? You have the right to reject others, Smith could also have said. There’s a special place in the world today for those who can do this, after all. Just ask Jason Comely, the creator of Rejection Therapy, a game for those who fear being on the wrong end of that. And who doesn’t, at least to some degree?

Like any game, Rejection Therapy has rules. Well, rule: At least once a day you have to be rejected by someone. Trying doesn’t count. You have to achieve it.

Here in fact is what counts as rejection in this game:

  • A REJECTION ATTEMPT COUNTS IF YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
  • A REJECTION COUNTS IF YOUR REQUEST IS DENIED
  • A REJECTION ATTEMPT SHOULD PUT YOU IN A POSITION OF VULNERABILITY, BUT ALLOW THE RESPONDENT TO BE IN A POSITION OF POWER

The game includes a 30-day challenge. Just 30 days?, Jia Jiang might have asked. Because Jiang went instead for a goal of 100 days.

And he found that getting rejected isn’t always easy. Here’s his TED talk on how things were proceeding about halfway through:

In September, at the point of his 100th request—which was to interview President Obama—he states: “…'(T)he worst they can say is no’ is actually not true. In fact, the worst they can say is ‘you didn’t even ask'” (his blog).

Has Obama answered his request yet? I don’t know, I have to reply assertively. But at least Jiang is doing the asking.

Someone who went for the actual 30-day challenge, by the way, is Mark Moschel, who then gave an interesting and humorous presentation on how he did:

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