When Dominoes Talk: 5 Ways to Overcome Rejection

Fall down seven times, stand up eight – Japanese Proverb


A Game of Dominoes

One of our favourite pastimes in Jamaica is playing a game of dominoes. This is a board game that men especially love to play, and on weekends we can find Jamaican men all around the island playing a game of dominoes. What’s more I recently discovered that children also have a love for dominoes especially the young boys. I believe this is something we can capitalize on in a number of ways. In fact, my friend Rev. Carla Dunbar has capitalized on men’s love for dominoes and has used it in her work of evangelism to lead men to faith in Jesus Christ. I, too, have now found a way to use dominoes to teach life skills or keys to win at life. In fact, dominoes have been speaking to me on how to handle rejection.  Here is the story of how this happened.

One afternoon, while volunteering with the Child Resiliency programme (a violence prevention alliance initiative) I saw one of my boys with a pack of dominoes. He wanted to play dominoes during class but I could not facilitate him that evening. However, I promised to do so at another time. I knew I had to find a legitimate way to include it into my teaching plan but I was not sure how to do so. Well, on another evening, the life skills topic was: “Dealing with Rejection” and instantly I knew the time had come to play dominoes! The idea came to me to use dominoes to teach them about handling rejection. I know by now you are quite intrigued to find out how. Well, you are not alone! In fact, one of our counsellors raised his eyebrows when I shared the idea. However, after I explained it to him he was totally blown away!

As usual, I researched my topic and looked for three key lessons or ways to develop each skill. Now, because I want to keep this article short, I encourage you to research the game of dominoes and the rules of the game if you are not familiar with dominoes. Suffice to say, in its simplest form, the game of dominoes is about matching pieces of tiles with numbers. A domino is any of 28 small oblong pieces marked with 0–6 pips in each half. The game usually has four players who each selects (draws) seven random dominoes. Each player then takes turn to match the pieces. The player who finishes his hand first, wins. If however, the game is blocked, meaning there are no more matches, the player with the lowest count wins.

Moreover, there are times in the game when a player has no matching pieces when it’s his turn to play, and the player will exclaim: “Pass!” It’s in a sense a game of chance. A player can pass several times but eventually their time to play will come again. It’s important to remember that when a player selects his seven pieces of dominoes that he does not see the numbers on the tiles. Thus, he cannot control the tile selection. These facts are important if we are to learn how to handle rejection from a game of dominoes.


The Pain of Rejection


Rejection, regardless of the context or reason is very painful. I recently learnt that rejection activates the same pain center in the body as being physically wounded. Relational rejections hurt like a deep knife wound in the heart especially when the relational ties are strong. This pain is not only emotional but physical and I have experienced both. In fact, this is an area in which I am an “expert.” I have dealt with rejection all my life, more so from men beginning with my father and then being rejected repeatedly in one romantic exploit after another. This is why my autobiography is called “Heartache Queen Unshackled.”

Nevertheless, I have learnt the art of bouncing back and when the dominoes spoke to me, I learnt even more lesson on how to handle rejection. I am sure you want to know how. How does one keep going in the face of repeated rejection? How can the game of dominoes teach us to bounce back in the face of rejections? How can dominoes teach resilience? Well, here now are five lessons from the game of dominoes in learning to handle rejection.


5 Ways to Handle Rejection


  1. Don’t Take Rejection Personally – You had no control over your “hand”

A huge part of handling rejection is learning to control your thinking and developing a proper perspective. In the game of dominoes, the player has no control over the hand he has been dealt and thus if he has no matching piece and cannot play, he should not take it personally. Often times when rejected, it may not be your fault per say. If for example, you are rejected because of your race, looks, social standing or some physical feature, then it’s not your fault. You have no control over the “hand” you have been given by life. Sometimes you are rejected because someone does not know you or because the situation is not working for them, so they have to “pass” on it. However, this is where having hope and proper perspective are necessary because even if you pass, you can still win. Therefore, do not take it personally.

  1.  Re-frame Your Thinking – Eventually, Your Match Will Come

In the game of dominoes when you pass, it simply means that the domino does not fit. When a relationship ends, try to see it as just that. It simply was not a match or it was a bad fit. For one reason or another, it required a pass. As in the game of dominoes, eventually your match will come. Eventually you will find the right fit. Your time to play will come again. This particular relationship may not have worked but who says the game is over. Your match may still be out there.

  1. Don’t Give Up – You Can Still Win

As my children learnt, it is important to keep a level head when you pass because you can still win the game. One of my students experienced this in the game. He became upset at first when he had to pass but in the end he won the game. Furthermore, in the simplest form of the game, there are six rounds and just because a player may lose one or two rounds, it does not mean he cannot win the entire game. He just needs to be patient and regroup. My students experienced this as well. Here are two real life examples using famous Hollywood stars: Mickey Rooney married eight times and divorced six times; Jennifer O’Neil has had nine marriages and she has stayed with husband number nine since 1996. There is still hope for me and you! We can still win.

  1. See Rejection as a Chance to Improve

In the game of dominoes, one must learn to read the game. When you can read the game well, you have a better chance of winning. When you are rejected, you should see it as a chance to learn to improve yourself. My relational rejections have taught me so much about myself. In fact, it is because of them why I now have a better sense of self-worth. I am actually making wiser decisions as a result. I am now studying and spending time with those who are doing well relationally so that I can do better next time. I am learning to read the game of relationships and studying to improve my game.

  1. Acknowledge the pain. Accept it and Move On

In the game of dominoes, as with all games, there are winners and losers. Losing can be painful. Not many people handle it well but whatever you do, don’t deny the pain. Do not let it get the best of you. Determine to become better not bitter; powerful not pitiful. Take the time you need to heal and find a positive way of handling the rejection.  In fact, the sooner you accept your loss and move on, the better it will be. In the game of dominoes, you can choose to continue playing or give someone else a chance.

In our class, we normally have 10-12 students and I usually ask the losing party to allow someone else to play. Those who are not good at playing do not mind. They would rather do something else. We can take the same approach to relationships. When it does not work, move on to something else or someone else. That something may be a new career or a new focus. For me, it’s been my career and simply serving others. When I focus on these areas, I have reason to continue living with purpose when a relationship fails.

I have also learnt that I am whole all by myself. In fact, I can still live a fulfilling life apart from a romantic relationship. And guess what? For the first time in a long while, I am happy being single. I’ve accepted it and moved on! For now, it’s a pass on relationships while I wait on the right match!


Questions for Reflection


– What insights has the game of dominoes given you to deal with rejection?
– Which of these lessons has resonated with you and why?

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