As I travel with my communication consulting, there is a YouTube video featuring Jia Jian and Krispy Kreme that I haul around from coast to coast. In order to overcome his fear of personal rejection, Jia Jiang launched a self-imposed 100-day project in which he asked people crazy questions so people would tell him “No.” What kinds of questions? Jia went to Five-Guys and asked for a refill on his burger. “No.” He went to Domino’s Pizza and asked to deliver a pizza. “No.” He asked a stranger to borrow $100. “No.” He asked someone if he could plant a flower in their back yard. “No.” He went to FedEx and tried to mail a package to Santa. “No.”
Now, this may strike you as odd, and I guess it is. Trust me though and watch the video. You will love it. While it stands on its own just for entertainment value, I use it for customer service, critical thinking, team building, and manager trainings. It’s fun and serves as a great conversation starter.
Just yesterday, I was sharing this video with a friend of mine and I discovered that Jia Jiang has a Ted Talk about this very experience so I watched it. During the presentation, Jia shares his deep-rooted fear of personal rejection, which started with a school experience gone bad at age six and stuck with him into adulthood. This resonated with me because I see every day how scared people are to talk to each other. Essentially, it’s the same fear. People won’t talk to each other out of fear of personal rejection, and the result is most likely avoidance. Avoidance is that behavior we use as a defense against personal rejection, although it immediately creates more rejection.
During Jia’s Ted Talk, there he shared a pivotal decision. On day one, when he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger, Jia literally ran away after being told “No.” After that first day, Jia changed his mind about his behavior. Jia said, “Tomorrow, no matter what happens, I’m not going to run. I’m going to stay engaged.” That decision changed everything for him and it can change everything for you too.
Notice, Jia didn’t decide to have the perfect conversation, follow the specific structure, or achieve the right outcome. He simply decided to stay engaged in the conversation. Brilliant! I wish I would have said that myself. Oh wait, I do say that ALLLLLLLLL the time. Jia just says it better, and his fear of personal rejection is something we can all understand. It’s fascinating to study his whole rejection journey and watch his confidence build as his fears subside, even while receiving the “No” he’s seeking. If you turned down the volume on the video, you would still see the change in his nonverbal communication. On day one, he is sweaty and nervous. By day 10, he is smiling and eager. The process simply becomes a fun learning experience.
After day one, Jia learned his worst fears simply weren’t the reality and the fear of a six-year-old had way too much power. For me, this is inspiring to think about as I work on my own relationships and try to help people talk to each other. Your worst fears aren’t reality with conversation, even during a conflict. When you stay engaged in conversation with the person, you will communicate the relationship matters to you and that is your trump card, especially if you just come right out and say exactly that. “This relationship matters to me; you matter to me. I want us to come through this and still be on the same team.”
So what does this have to do with Jesus? If we are who we say we are—transformed people who love Jesus—we absolutely must show people how to handle conflict, irritation, personality conflicts, and whatever else makes us want to escape personal rejection. Others are going to see how we treat each and believe what we show them about who Jesus is. Let’s make sure we show them a Jesus who engages despite the risk of personal rejection. If we say, “Jesus loves you no matter what,” but cut them off during a conflict, we show them a Jesus who doesn’t love them no matter what.
If anyone experienced personal rejection, it was Jesus. Any rejection we experience pales in comparison. Interestingly enough, Jia actually makes this very point at the conclusion of his Ted Talk. Violent personal rejection was very much a part of the lives of those who have changed the world: Ghandi, King, Mandela, and yes, Jesus Christ. The really good news is that we don’t have to change the world. Jesus will do that work, and through our effort to stay engaged, the world will be changed.