How to handle rejection and criticism


In my recent podcast/interview with Poet and Creative Coach, Mark McGuiness, I asked him to begin by defining rejection and criticism, the topic on which he is speaking at this year’s HOW Design Live (in Chicago, May 4-8, 2015).

“Rejection is fairly straightforward – it’s when you apply for an opportunity and the gatekeepers put you in the pile labeled ‘no,’ which feels like a personal rejection.

“Criticism is more complex and can be anything from constructive feedback from a mentor or someone who’s got your back, to something destructive and negative from a stranger and is not helpful at all.”

I brought up the issue of perceived vs. real rejection: I see creatives misperceiving criticism as rejection and, worse, giving in to what I think is the mental habit of assuming silence is a rejection, even when it’s not. For example, when someone does not respond to your initial outreach or “warm email prospecting,” it’s easy to imagine or assume “they don’t want me” and take it personally.

Call me naïve, but I don’t automatically make that assumption when I don’t hear back from someone I’m trying to reach. They can’t be rejecting me — they don’t even know me!

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and imagine instead that they are busy or it’s not a priority or the timing is bad or they didn’t see my message. In fact, maybe the opposite is true: they saw my message but it got lost and they wish they could find it because they really do want to talk to me.

That’s just a taste of Mark and I touched on in our podcast. Listen to find out where self confidence fits into all of this and what steps you can take toward dealing with this better.

Find out more about Mark McGuiness, author of the Amazon Creativity best seller Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, and at and