To some, love is a battlefield, rigged with land mines, hidden triggers, full of red flags and enemy combatants. Those who join the guerrilla campaign against lonesomeness are apt to encounter all sorts of creatures in the field. Today I want to talk about Rejection Ninjas.
Despite sounding like an elite group, Rejection Ninjas are common in the field. They have no distinguishing characteristics, so there is no way to recognize them before it’s too late. It goes something like this: the unwitting soldier of love, Lonely Heart, meets Mr. or Ms. Could Be Right (CBR) and goes on a number of outings with CBR (usually somewhere between 1 and 3). Shortly after, CBR is stricken with a case of “falling off the planet” or “extreme business.” A week later Lonely Heart realizes that he/she has been dealing with a Rejection Ninja.
Here’s why Rejection Ninja approach sucks:
It reflects poor communication skills.
Use your words. That is the best thing you can do when dealing with humans. Honest direct communication is not easy, but it is a prerequisite to getting your “adult” card. It is absolutely OK to decide after a few dates that you’re not interested in a person. That is the purpose of dating, after all. But once the decision has been made, the decider has the responsibility to inform the interested party. Lonely Heart will have to find out eventually.
Ninja rejection can come in two forms: total severance of all communications, or a series of excuses as to why the Ninja can’t hang out. Both leave the dumpee room for interpretation (and desperation). Maybe CBR’s phone has been stolen, maybe CBR got hit by a car, maybe CBR really is going through a difficult time and does genuinely want to spend time with Lonely Heart. All of those doubts lead to awkward calls, emails, text and facebook messages that make the Rejection Ninja uncomfortable and put LH at a really vulnerable spot.
It strings people along.
Eventually dropping out of contact or becoming unavailable will result in the desired outcome. Lonely Heart will get the message. However, it will take some time. Time in which LH can agonize, waiting for that text message or phone call. LH may refrain from looking for other partners and forgo going on dates. LH may keep his/her schedule open to accommodate the Ninja.
Rejection by avoidance is disrespectful of Lonely Heart’s time, for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point. Those Ninjas who try to justify their sneaky tactics as a way to avoid hurting LH’s feelings, are committing the crime of arrogance (not to mention self-delusion). The arrogance lies in assuming that the Rejection Ninja knows what is best for LH and does not grant LH the responsibility for managing his/her own feelings.
It makes further contact a lot more awkward and uncomfortable.
Stealthy rejection sends one clear message: the Rejection Ninja does not care for LH as a person. The Ninja does not want to be your friend, he or she doesn’t even want to be your acquaintance. By dropping you unceremoniously, he or she did not even bother to smooth things over in case you see each other again. So when LH and the Ninja run into each other, it is an uncomfortable experience for both.
The temptation to join the dark side and become a Rejection Ninja is great, but resist. Try to understand what is fueling the desire to run and hide. Some women feel like they led someone on and may experience extreme guilt, because society tells us that there’s nothing worse than being a tease. Am I right the girl from Grease? And in the world where a woman’s right to say “no” is not respected or acknowledged, saying “no” will get you labeled a bitch before you can say “rape culture.” Furthermore, rejecting someone may lead to conflict, and women are socialized to smooth things over and avoid confrontations at all costs. I can only speculate why men are driven to the dark side (help me out in the comments?) A lot of men in my life have been taught to suppress emotions and therefore feel uncomfortable around any expression of strong emotion, which rejection will inevitably evoke. Men are also taught to be protective and never to make a woman cry. If a man fails to do that and makes someone cry, the feelings of intense shame and guilt are sure to follow.
With all the social conditioning loaded into us, the desire to avoid conflict is natural. Shame is a horrible, soul-wrenching emotion. However, I implore you to be a decent person and not utilize Rejection Ninja tactics. Be direct and be prompt. As soon as you decide that you’re not interested, inform the Lonely Heart. If you do want to be his/her friend, say so. If you do not, DON’T. After you’ve done this, go buy yourself an ice cream and congratulate yourself on being a responsible adult.
Be brave, Lonely Hearts!