Perceived Micro Rejections
A few weeks ago while listening to Brene’ Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast, her guest, Priya Parker, the author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, used a term that got my attention. “Micro rejection.” She said we would begin to encounter “perceived micro rejections” as we come out of the pandemic and begin to socially reengage.
The idea is we would feel some level of rejection when we encounter people who won't shake our hand, who back away, who practice physical distancing, and other small safety protocols. These things can, in social settings, create a perceived disconnectedness.
This term made what I am seeing in my work counseling teenagers make sense.
I recently had a 14-year-old teen in for a suicide assessment. Their depression had become increasingly worse since the beginning of the pandemic. When I asked the teenager, what was the most difficult thing for them, their first response was, “school”. “Tell me more about that," I asked. “The masks,” they responded. I have to admit at first I thought they said “the math," which I could totally relate to. Again the teen responded, “The masks are terrible.” “Tell me more," I asked.
“I can't see anybody.”
I can't see anybody!
I thought this response was quite interesting since, unless you don't know how to wear one, masks are worn over your mouth and nose and not over your eyes. But the reality, especially for teenagers, is if I can't see you smile, if I can't see you frown, if I can't read your face, I cannot see you the way I need to. We can’t connect. How many perceived micro rejections does it take before it feels like a macro rejection? Because of where they are developmentally, I think teenagers are likely to perceive rejections quickly. They are more sensitive (and sometimes more perceptive) to disconnection, judgment, and rejection.
As we are reestablishing safe ways of meeting and connecting, let’s keep in mind how easy it is for feelings of rejection to arise for teenagers.
Here are a few things to consider:
-Have discussions about the idea of “perceived micro rejections.”
-Help teens rethink comments, questions, and responses from a different point of view.
-Find safe opportunities for teens to engage with others in a way that allows them to really “see” the other person.
If your teen needs additional support and lives in Northwest Arkansas, check out tascnwa.org. Otherwise look for teen specific programs in your area.