Perhaps I’ve been fortunate in not — so far — having received a rude or discouraging rejection. I hear that some do.
The closest I’ve gotten was, upon my third or fourth (fifth?) rejection from a particular zine, one that added (paraphrased from memory) ‘this is a great example of what we’re looking for’ with a link to a story. Overall, that’s a pretty nice way to tell me that what I was sending them wasn’t really in the genre they want.
I recently got what I think is my most positive rejection to date. It combined the (again, paraphrased from memory) phrases, ‘enjoyed reading your story’, ‘think highly of your writing’, and ‘send more’.
My first, selfish thought was, ‘well, why didn’t you buy it, then?’
Sometimes, it pays to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about it a bit. So my second, less selfish, thought was to do just that.
So: most zines and journals and similar concerns publish a handful of stories in each issue, maybe half a dozen, or twice that, or half. Some publish monthly. More publish six or four or fewer times yearly. That means that most markets you can send your short story to publish fewer than a hundred stories yearly; most publish significantly fewer than that.
Each one of them, aside from the tiniest and most obscure, receives hundreds of submissions monthly.
Imagine an issue of the magazine you’ve submitted a story to as a branch. There is space for half a dozen birds on that branch.
Above the branch, your story is one among a flock numbering at least a couple of thousand. For the sake of this metaphor, the entire rest of the tree is studded with spikes for some reason. Can’t land there.
When your bird gets so close to landing on the one available branch that someone hollers “good job!” that’s a good sign. Even if you have to send your bird over to the next tree in search of a place to land.