Elegant Rejection

We all crave acceptance.  Even more so we yearn for understanding and respect.  

Likewise, whether we are supervisors or employees, spouses or parents, caretakers or dependents, most of us dread delivering bad news.  One approach that I've always relied on as a "go to" is to communicate rejection or denial without the use of a negative word.  That's right, no negative words!  Excluded from the lexicon are won't, don't, can't, no, but, is not, sorry, etc.  Some would say this is not possible.

Although I've found favor in my career to have enjoyed gainful employment with several fine organizations I admit that for every acceptance there have been dozens, if not hundreds of rejections. The standard "reject" letter, if even provided, would often go something like:

Dear Mr. McCarley:

We have received your application for employment with our company.  Unfortunately you are not one of the finalists for the position.  Your application will be retained on file for six months...blah, blah, blah.  

Though the organization would not have deliberately highlighted "unfortunately" and "not" they may as well have as that's the message that I, the unsuccessful applicant, focused on and deduced.

How much better if they would have said:

Dear Kirk:

Thank you for your application for employment with our organization.  There are a number of outstanding applicants who have applied for this position.  Your credentials are impressive and we are going to maintain your application on file for six months in anticipation of other positions becoming available for which you are matched.  Thank you again for your interest in our company and best wishes in your professional endeavors.  

Message communicated--there are other jobs for which you will be considered, just not this one.  Dignity upheld--your credentials are impressive.  Encouragement--best wishes in your professional endeavors.  Maybe even more important for the sender the receiver thinks, "hey, this is a good company that has their act together.  I'll tell others."

This approach is effective in a number of environments, not just in employment or written communications.  The take away and challenge is to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person.  We want to first ensure our communication is clear, yet at the same time delivered in a manner that is positive and dignifies the receiver of the message.  And...stated positively!

The Seed Sower


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