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Reject First

Do you know anyone who struggles to let others get close or bails out of a relationship at the first sign of conflict? Sometimes people anticipate rejection and take action to escape the feelings of being rejected. They may intentionally or unintentionally detach and disconnect from those who have hurt or disappointed them in the past. We often use whatever protective mechanism we can to divert an anticipated emotional wound and sometimes avoidance works best. For instance, if we've tried to confront someone about a conflict but failed resolution, we may choose avoidance of the person in the future. In some cases, severing ties is less painful than exposing ourselves to future pain. As they say, the best defense is a good offense. And sometimes disengaging is the only way to stop the bleeding. Otherwise we are stuck doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response, which is the definition of insanity. However, some people reject others prematurely without giving them an opportunity for reconciliation or resolution.

Why do people choose to reject others? Sometimes it gives people a sense of control or power over their lives even at the expenses of losing relationships. Others have a long history of rejection and/or abandonment and assume a bad outcome from seeking to confront conflict. They may have a difficult time getting close to people in general and disconnecting seems safer and requires less effort. For some being vulnerable and sharing negative emotions is incredibly scary so detaching becomes an easier option. In other cases an inability to forgive and let go of emotional pain may contribute to their decision to reject others first. They may also reject themselves along with rejecting others and don't feel worthy of a friendship or relationship that involves mutual respect and love. Regardless of the reasons people choose this path or process, what can be done to change their approach?

When we reject others we miss the opportunity for healing, reconciliation, and possible connection. We also avoid dealing with conflict and emotional pain which can produce growth, positive change, and resilience if we deal with the issues in a healthy way. The first step is to recognize why we have a desire to reject first and choose to confront rather than avoid. We will need to be assertive, direct, and share our feelings with the person we've chosen to reject. Another option is to try and understand where the other person is coming from and provide grace/forgiveness. Maybe writing a letter or developing a script to communicate with the other person might be helpful. Figure out why your tendency is to run rather than confront and don't assume that your past experiences determine your present relationships. Everyone is different and some people respond well to feedback and conflict when it is communicated constructively. Lastly, recognize that problems don't go away through avoidance but instead are internalized which creates even greater problems. Life can be pretty lonely when we push everyone away and assume they will reject us. It takes courage to confront conflict and release the emotional pain, but the benefits are enormous and can lead to relationship success.

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