Mary Civiello, President of Civiello Communications Group
Photograph by Laura Boyd
By Mary Civiello
March 30, 2015

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How should every successful woman deal with rejection? is written by Mary Civiello, president of Civiello Communications Group.

The first step is to avoid registering rejection…at least for any prolonged period. You don’t want to be perceived as a sore loser or angry. You want the organization to see you as a leader — and leadership requires resilience. If you didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for or a green on your carefully crafted growth plan, it’s perfectly appropriate to express disappointment. To say nothing or show no emotion, would suggest you didn’t care. But say your peace in brief … “I’m surprised or disappointed. I really felt that….” And be done with it.

In fact, studies show that women get too defensive, potentially hurting their changes of succeeding. In 2012, the Center for Talent Innovation interviewed four thousand executives — men and women across sectors — and found that women received less feedback than men because men, who were more often managers, were afraid of women getting emotional or defensive. And regular feedback is of course the best way to develop and become successful.

To avoid over reacting when faced with rejection, think about the three “P’s”: pause, plus, and play it cool.

Pause: When challenged, don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. Breathe deeply and maintain eye contact with the bearer of bad tidings. Think about what has been said before responding.

Plus: Invite the boss (or whoever delivers the rejection) to elaborate: “Tell me more about…” Oftentimes, encouraging elaboration will cause the decision maker to moderate or back off.

Play it cool: The visual aspect of your reaction is equally, if not more, important than what you say. Favor a flat look over a frown. The CTI study suggests that showing grace under fire is a critical part of executive presence. You may have lost this battle but you’ll win the war if you look the part of a winner.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How should every successful woman deal with rejection?

Why the best leaders are defined by their failures by Alyse Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

5 stages of rejection (and how to deal) by Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University.

Keep making mistakes at work? Here’s how to recover by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

How to successfully deal with rejection at work by Beth Monaghan, principal and co-founder of InkHouse.

How to shake off rejection like Taylor Swift by Beth Comstock, senior vice president and CMO of General Electric.


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