Rejected by your peers? Some people can take validation for this - and become more creative off the back of it
Most people experience social rejection at some time in their life, some of us more than others
But a study by a business professor at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, found that social rejection can inspire imaginative thinking, particularly in individuals with a strong sense of their own independence.
Lead author Sharon Kim concluded that, for independent people, social rejection can be 'a form of validation' to their own beliefs - and spur them on to greater productivity.
Kim said: 'Rejection confirms for independent people what they already feel about themselves, that they're not like others.
'For people who already feel separate from the crowd, social rejection can be a form of validation - that distinction is a positive one leading them to greater creativity.'
However she added that social rejection has the opposite effect on people who value belonging to a group: It inhibits their cognitive ability.
With her co-authors, Lynne Vincent and Jack Goncalo of Cornell University, she decided to consider the impact of rejection on people who take pride in being different from the norm. Such individuals, in a term from the study, are described as possessing an 'independent self-concept'.
'We're seeing in society a growing concern about the negative consequences of social rejection thanks largely to media reports about bullying that occurs at school, in the workplace, and online.
'Obviously, bullying is reprehensible and produces nothing good. What we tried to show in our paper is that exclusion from a group can sometimes lead to a positive outcome when independently minded people are the ones being excluded.'
Kim states that the paper has practical implications for business because of the desire among managers to employ imaginative thinkers who can maximize creativity.
A company might want to take a second look at a job candidate whose unconventional personality might make him an easy target for rejection, but whose inventiveness would be a valuable asset to the organisation.
In the long term, Kim adds, the creative person with an independent self-concept might even be said to thrive on rejection.
While repeated rebuffs would discourage someone who longs for inclusion, such slights could continually recharge the creativity of an independent person. The latter type, says Kim, 'could see a successful career trajectory, in contrast with the person who is inhibited by social rejection.'