Anxiety is a weird way to suffer twice for something you have no control over. As I wrote in And That’s Ok, “a small part of anxiety stems from our fear of failure, rejection, and abandonment”—and one of the easiest ways to neutralize this fear is to simply find out where you stand.
You must aks
You sent in that application a week ago and they promised you feedback this week, but it’s now Friday and you haven’t heard from them. You could spend days agonizing over whether you got it or not… or you could just call or email and ask them for feedback. It’ll take you all of 60 seconds.
Your carefully prepared proposal was sent in with your best English (“warmest regards”) but they haven’t reverted yet. Follow up with them. No lie: I’ve had clients who “forgot” to respond to my email and then signed the contract and paid the deposit on the same day I followed up. Life happens, and minds get distracted. A gentle reminder is all it takes.
A few Netflix movies in, you might be wondering where the two of you stand. Sure, you could bide your time beating around the bush and hope they see what a wonderful person you are. That works about 5% of the time. You could also gather courage and ask them directly. Don’t feel the need to soften the question, either—that’s just giving in to fear and making it easy for them to keep stringing you along. “What are we?” isn’t awkward if you both know what you want.
Be ready for the response
Clarity is a double-edged sword. Perhaps you never follow up or ask for clarity on things because you’re afraid of the answers you might get. That’s perfectly understandable. It’s also not an excuse. If you’re going to ask clarifying questions, prepare to receive clarifying answers—and take it on the chin. A “no” is liberating because it frees you from wasting energy on a dead end.
And if you’re on the other side of that question: be beneficially blunt.
- “We’re moving forward with another candidate who is a better fit at this time.”
- “We’ve read through your proposal and don’t feel this is something we can fund right now. Check back again in six months, or consider taking an XYZ approach instead.”
- “You drool bruh, we can’t date.”
I’m obviously kidding about that last one (I’m not) but you get the point. Give people closure early and often—but most importantly, be ready for whatever action they take afterwards. Don’t string someone along because you fear they might move on. They’re supposed to.
The system only works if we’re all willing to be straight with each other.
Till next week,
In my last post, I explained the concept of “pivoting” — why there’s no shame in repositioning your original idea or even jumping into a new one. Here’s why:
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Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.