I’m no stranger to negative feedback and rejection. I’ve dealt with it all my life, in all different formats. I’ve received it in all forms, ranging from not seeing my name on the list of players that made the team to being told no over the phone when I asked someone to prom (don’t judge too much…I went to an all girls’ school so we had to do the asking) to getting my rejection letter from Stanford (dream school) in the mail. Remember when we had to fill out all those paper applications with a typewriter??

In the age of cell phones and social media, the possibilities of where the feedback and/or rejection may come from exploded, and I am proud to say that I have been rejected on the best of dating apps. I’m not proud…calling them “growing opportunities”. Or something. Anyhoooo…

I have been known to possibly, completely unintentionally of course, over-, under-, or just flat out mis-interpret an email or text. I find I have a hard time trying to “hear” the tone intended. I don’t think I’m the only one suffering from this affliction…in fact, I’m pretty sure there is an ICD-10 code assigned to it: ABC.90210…abdominal pain caused by overthinking a received text or email, initial encounter. Luckily, over the years I have developed a bit of a thicker skin, so that helps while trying to sort things out.

Having said that, I’m having a bit of a hard time interpreting a recent email rejection I recently received and would love to get some feedback. With my thicker skin has come a likely ill-advised enthusiasm for exploring my previously well-hid love of writing. Which has led to my sharing some of my pieces with people outside of my comfort zone. Which leads to emails such as the following:

Thanks for the submissions, but I’m going to politely decline the pieces.

Reasons may include any of the following:

  • There are too many typos, formatting or grammatical mistakes.
  • The topic has already been discussed.
  • The article promotes a commercial entity by name.
  • The topic is not of interest.
  • I have too many articles in the editorial queue.

Having spent the majority of my adult life in an educational role, I am a firm believer in constructive feedback. If it happens to be positive as well, that helps, but I know that just isn’t realistic. But, I just really am not sure what to do with that response. Of course, I want to believe it’s just because there are too many other things to review. But, what if it really not interesting. Or just plain sucks?

I know it is a bit unfair to be critical, especially when these people have put together such a successful endeavor that people are (possibly) lining up to be included. But, my question to you is what should I do?

Should I:

  • Put it on the shelf and forget about it?
  • Resubmit exactly the same pieces?
  • Edit and resubmit?

In all seriousness, I am using this as a good reminder to myself about the importance of useful and constructive feedback and criticism. These are stressful times for all of us and these times could be game changers, especially for younger physicians. I was working in the ED the other day, and one of the residents who I greatly admire and the fact that he and people like him are in pediatrics gives me absolute hope for the future of the specialty I love, stated basically that if he thought he was putting his family at risk for doing this job, he would drop it in a heartbeat. Those words were very eye opening, a bit sobering and, honestly, more than a little scary. It reminded me that we need to be there to support our trainees and young physicians through common crises, pandemics and life in general. The wrinkles and gray hair I try so hard to hide are, in many ways, scars of battles we have all fought. Some I have won, some I have lost, but all have taught me something, whether I wanted to learn it or not.

So, to my colleagues and trainees…when we get through this (and we will get through this), and we can hang out in public together again, remind me to tell you my stories of when I cried, when I couldn’t get out of bed, and when I almost quit. We’ve all been there, and will probably be there again. I promise to try and do better than “great job” and “read more”. And I promise to listen.

First round is on me.

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