When we think about that facet of our lives that has to do with personal relationships, it is very easy for us to imagine it by measuring the number of friends and loved ones each person has.
However, there is something that is just as important, if not more so, than this “count” of the number of regular relationships we have: to what extent is it likely to lose contact with those friends, lovers or people we would like to meet ?
The truth is that we human beings are predisposed to attach more importance to possible losses than to profits; this makes us pay close attention to signs of possible rejection, either by people with whom we have a close relationship or by someone we would like to know more about.
However, there are some people who are particularly sensitive to rejection , and so they often fear and anticipate it, experiencing significant doses of psychological distress. The curious thing about this predisposition is that it increases the chances that rejection will actually occur, because of the mechanisms that we will see below.
Why does sensitivity to rejection occur?
The idea that people with worse social skills are rejected for their clumsiness in communicating and bonding with others is only partly true. It is true that not having a good toolbox to manage your social life makes it easier to end up more isolated, but this is not inevitable. In fact, many people with relationship difficulties are not unwilling to think about social interactions, but quite the opposite: they become obsessed with it because of fear of rejection.
People who are sensitive to rejection remain in an almost constant state of alert , thinking all the time about liking the other person and analysing the behaviour of others for signs of boredom, mockery or anger.
How did they get to that point? Often it is not due to poor social skills, but rather a series of bad experiences in the past. For example, a very hard love break-up or a childhood marked by bullying or other forms of abuse are capable of leading to a state of social hypervigilance.
Thus, the fear of rejection is a result of very worrying expectations about what others demand in order to establish a relationship with them, and this may be produced by past events that were beyond one’s control and the resulting lack of self-esteem.
Why the fear of rejection isolates us more
The obsession with the possibility of being rejected makes us conceive relationships as a machine, and not as a space of interaction between two human beings. The reason is that the pressure not to lose that person is so high that they only concentrate on measuring their movements so as not to “cross an imaginary line” that will set off alarms in the other one or the other.
On the other hand, people who are most afraid of rejection are more likely to interpret any ambiguous action as a sign of rejection, which makes them adopt a defensive attitude.
In an investigation carried out on the subject, a questionnaire measuring this psychological characteristic was passed on to a group of single people and, months later, those who had started a relationship in that period of time were asked to imagine that their partner carried out a series of strange actions, such as spending less time with them, being distant, etc. The results showed that the people who feared rejection the most quickly went on to assume that their relationship was in danger , instead of considering other more reasonable hypotheses beforehand.
It has been proven that this pattern of thinking makes people more hostile more quickly and without too much reason, and they even become more reluctant to accept their mistakes, which is paradoxical when you consider the fear of isolation.
On the other hand, it has also been seen that this fear causes people to enter into a harmful dynamic in which the first injured party is oneself. For example, an investigation showed that men who have been crudely rejected in a social circle are more willing to make sacrifices in order to be part of that group, confirming that dynamic of submission to the other that causes such a bad image (in addition to being harmful to those who suffer it in the first person). Men who had been rejected by a woman on a dating website were also more willing to spend more money on a date after going through that bad experience.
Sometimes we forget that the basis of healthy relationships is simplicity and honesty. Assuming the role of a victim condemned to rejection only precipitates the appearance of a stigma that leads others to distance themselves.