Rejection Therapy – 48 Days of Ridiculous Asks and How It Could Help You

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

I heard about Jia Jiang’s Ted Talk called “What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection” and as one does, thought, 

“That sounds like fun! I’ll give it a try!”

I recommend watching the Ted Talk but the premise is to get over the fear of rejection by making requests of strangers. It seems that the more ridiculous the better. But I found that the most difficult ones weren’t the outrageous requests, but ones that I had a lot of value judgment around.

I embarked on this experiment called “Rejection Therapy” with 2 ground rules:

  1. I had to make the ask/request from a stranger; and
  2. I will not tell them that I am conducting an experiment until after I’ve made my ask and they’ve either rejected me or said yes, and usually only if they ask.

I then posted about it in my Instagram stories each day in the hopes that it would inspire others to see the value of just asking. Yes, it was entertaining and from the response I got from friends and fans (oh yes, I have fans because fun fact, I was a Thai teen pop star in my last life) I knew it was also impactful.

From the title of this post you can tell that I lasted 48 days, not the full 100, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because I ran out of ideas and manufacturing an ask every day was exhausting. I found myself often running to my local Ralph’s because it was open late, finding victims for my asks. 

But you’re a lawyer . . . you have a fear of rejection?

Yes. Lawyers are people too. (Insert your favorite lawyer joke here. I’ll wait while you laugh).

Many of you could probably relate with the fact that it is infinitely easier for us to ask for things for other people. For me, advocating for clients comes easily and naturally. But making requests for myself, especially when I think the other person will think I am strange, ridiculous, weird, or whatever judgments we think people will make of us, it is petrifying. 

But after 48 days of making requests, I overcame the fear of asking and built the asking muscle. Asking became a fun challenge. It became a chance to connect. 

So what things did you ask for and what did you learn from it?

Below were a few of my favorite asks, not only because they were yeses, but mostly because they lead to a moment of connection or a real opportunity for growth:

  1. After hearing one of my favorite authors on entrepreneurship speak, I went up and asked my favorite author if I could shadow him for a day. He said yes and connected me with his assistant to set it up. Lesson: I would have never made this ask if I was not looking for a rejection that day. Forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone each day made me more creative and took action that moved my life forward and helped me grow.
  1. I asked for a free sundae at McDonald’s and was initially rejected but I decided to see if I could get her to change her mind. I asked her how I could get a free sundae. She said download the app. I didn’t want to so after some back and forth I asked “Don’t you ever just give sundaes away to make people happy?” She smiled and said “Ok, I’ll do it for you.” Lesson: When you’re out of moves, appealing to people’s desire to connect, make a difference, and to be altruistic still works. 
  1. I asked the manager at Ralph’s if I could make an announcement over the PA system. She laughed and said “Do you really want to do that? What are you going to say?” I said I would like to welcome shoppers and wish them a good day. She made me practice 3 times before letting me go on. I was giddy and she got a kick out of it. Lesson: Don’t assume that what’s a big deal for you is a big deal for someone else. You may want something that the other person can’t imagine why you would ever want it and have no problem helping you get it.
  1. My favorite requests that allowed me to have a shared moment with strangers. People’s reactions to these requests showed me how much people are longing for connection these days.
    1. I asked a woman to do a staring contest. (I won. Twice.)
    2. I asked a woman at a restaurant for a hug.
    3. I challenged someone to a thumb war in Starbucks. (I won but I I think he let me win.)
    4. I asked an older lady to record me dancing at the beach but turned the camera on her to record her reaction. It was priceless. She was embarrassed for me but thoroughly entertained.
  1. Requests where people said “that’s weird” but still said yes.
    1. I asked a donut delivery guy if I could record him singing happy birthday to me. He said “No offense, but it’s kinda weird.” He then gave me a box of Valentine’s Day donuts.
    2. I asked a guy in a parked car if I could see the inside of his car (I was with a friend and felt safe). My friend later asked if he thought I was weird, he said yes.
  1. My toughest request was one that I would have judged someone else for: I asked to cut in line for boba. On this one, I remembered an old experiment called the photocopier study where ​​researchers found that with small asks liked cutting in line to copy 5 pages, using “because” after the ask increases your chances of getting a yes. Even with a circular reason of “because I have to make some copies” was almost as successful as asking to cut in for the valid reason of ‘because I’m in a rush’, and both of them provided no reason at all. So I tested it out, and said “because I’m in a rush” and lo and behold, she said yes. It was a long line too. This was a tough one for me and I was about to talk myself out of it, but knowing that the point of this experiment was to overcome my fears of rejection (and judgment), I went for it. I bought the woman her drink of course and had a wonderful conversation about why she went to nursing school. Lesson: If something scares you, do it. Remember to add “because” when you make your ask.

Were you rejected?

Yes. My rejection rate was 20% and some of them surprised me, like asking a woman if I could borrow her phone; free muffin Friday at Starbucks was a no go; and Canadians wouldn’t teach me how to sing the national anthem.  

That means people said yes to some pretty ridiculous asks 80% of the time! Remember those odds next time you really want something. You miss all of the shots you don’t take, but how much richer your life could be if you made an ask every day and 80% of them turned into yeses? Would you meet more people? Make more sales? Make more money? Have unforgettable memories? 

I would take the leap to say the answer is yes. 

If you would like to see a video of me making an announcement at Ralphs, having a staring contest at a food court, or a thumb war at Starbucks, just ask. 

I would also love to hear from you if you have any fun rejection therapy ideas or if you take on the challenge yourself.

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