Rejection sucks. And according to science, one particular type sucks more.
A study conducted by Cornell University that was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that comparative rejection (when you’re rejected in favour of someone else) is more hurtful than noncomparative rejection (when you’re rejected for reasons that don’t involve a third party).
Photo: Katarzyna Białasiewicz
The study involving 608 participants used four experiments to look at the two types of rejection, and the subjects always felt worse when someone else was chosen over them, as compared to when no one else was chosen.
Suffice it to say, the worst type of breakup is when your partner dumps you for someone else — as compared to when they want out because of, say, character differences. Which makes sense, right? It feels terrible when we don’t seem “good enough”, and that someone else is “better”.
It should be noted that the hurt from comparative rejection applies in all other contexts, so you may also be more upset when someone else is chosen for a job instead.
Interestingly, as reported by TIME, the researchers also found that when people in the study weren’t given a reason as to why they were rejected, they tended to assume it was because someone else took their place.
They however felt better when they learnt no one else was in the picture, and the authors of the study explained that this is because a “rival” can often feel like a “double rejection”.
So perhaps the next time you’re the one doing the rejecting—and there’s no third party involved—you should let the other person know. But if there is in fact someone else, the authors recommend that “references to other parties chosen over the rejectees should be kept to a minimum.”
Basically, don’t explain so much.
This article was first published on CLEO.