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Three-Step Process to Build the Skill of Accepting a “No”

June 9, 2023

“I keep getting turned down for a job interview,” said my daughter when we talked. “I put in an application, and when I checked back, the job was filled.” 

It’s hard to hear “No” and feel the sting of rejection. Hearing the word “No” can be a daily experience.

Children often hear “No”: “No, you can’t have candy before supper. No, you cannot go over to your friend’s tonight. No, we don’t have enough money for that toy.”

We never really get over the hurt of the word “No.” However, what if the word “No” can lead us to a “Yes”? What if the word isn’t rejection, disappointment, or fear of keeping up with the Jones? What if a “No” is really a “Yes” to something else?

Reframing the Situation

Reframing is an essential skill that can be taught. It’s a skill that adults can learn and then help young people to use in situations by guiding them through the steps of reframing an event. Research has shown that reframing is a way of reducing stress in challenging situations. When taught to young people, it’s a potentially powerful way to help them resist impulses and defer gratification (Lieberman, 2013).

Reframing is not wiping away the feelings and thoughts that are present during the event. It’s considering those feelings and thoughts and acknowledging what is happening in your body. When calm, take a different perspective on the situation and change your point of view.

There are several different thought patterns you might experience when hearing a “No.” 

  • I keep trying and trying; it never turns out to be the right way!
  • Why should I even try?
  • She never says “Yes” to anything I suggest.

Reframing starts with acknowledging feelings

Think of a time you heard “No” to your request. It might be when you asked a friend to go to the movie with you or a child not doing a requested chore. Whatever the situation, close your eyes and picture the event.

Where were you?

Who was with you?

What do you hear?

Where does your body feel the tension?

When I hear a “No, “I feel it first in my chest area. My chest tightens, and my jaw cliches. I might even feel my cheeks get warm.

What is the feeling? Name it. Sadness, embarrassment, anger, frustration, or disappointment? Until you can notice your body’s sensations and emotions with the “No,” it’s hard to reframe or look at the situation differently.

Then breathe deeply and look at the thoughts floating through your mind. Your thoughts are your thoughts. Your thoughts are not necessarily true. Our brains fill in the gaps with judgments and assumptions. Get curious about those thoughts that you are clinging to when you hear “No.”

Curiosity is the key

Slowing down thinking and getting curious can help with changing our perspective and reframing the situation. Ask yourself, What good could come from the situation? 

I coached my daughter through the challenging situation of finding a job by helping her recognize her feelings and thoughts about searching for a job. As we talked, my daughter admitted that the jobs she has been applying for might not fit her well. She realized that when a position was filled, it didn’t necessarily reflect her ability or aptitude. It might be that someone else applied before her, or the job didn’t fit the hours she needed to work. She might not have gotten the job for many reasons, and none were about her. She recognized that receiving a “No” on one job might lead her to a “Yes” on a job she would like better. She just needed to keep applying for jobs.

Make Reframing a Game

When coaching others through a challenging situation, help them to reframe using the 3 Rs

  1. Recognize the uncomfortable feelings and the thoughts around the situation.
  2. Regroup by stepping back from the situation and asking, “What good things can happen from this?”
  3. Refocus on the positive aspects of the situation. 

Using different scenarios, you can work through the three steps as a game with others. Here are a few everyday situations to use the 3Rs process.

  • I wasn’t invited to a friend’s birthday party.
  • I don’t think the coach likes me because I never get to play.
  • I will not ask a question because people will think I am stupid.

Brainstorm other situations by asking others to share something they don’t like to do; however, they need to do it regularly. Then use the 3Rs process to reframe the situation.

Reframing is a powerful tool that can empower you and others to develop a positive mindset. By recognizing stressful situations and reframing negative thoughts, you equip yourself with the skills to navigate life’s challenges with resilience and optimism. Through consistent practice and support, you can build a foundation of positive thinking that will serve you well throughout your life and enable you to embrace your full potential.