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This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively to annoying
social behavior. An effective response occurs when
you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
This article offers useful responses to someone you
experience as "over-competitive."It assumes you're familiar with...
Do you know anyone who makes all disagreements into a
win-lose competition? They feel they must prove that they're
right and you're wrong, no matter what. Their spokesman is
the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi, who told his
players "Winning isn't the only thing - it's EVERYthing!"
Two difficulties caused by such people are they compulsively
avoid (b) win-win compromises and (b) mutually-respectful
problem-solving. Over time, that strains relationships and
any wish to cooperate with them. Why would anyone choose an
overly-competitive stance like this?
Many such people have well-camouflaged psychological
pervasive wound is excessive shame - the
certainty that they are worthless, clumsy, inept, stupid,
unattractive, and unlovable. Kids whose adults accuse them of
this may become submissive, apathetic, and "depressed," or
rebellious, combative, and competitive.
They're determined to be "the best," so they can prove their
adults' wrong and earn their respect and love. Without
this is often fruitless because of the adult's wounds and
unawareness. The bright side of this compulsion to win can be an asset is some
business roles and organizations.
In their developmental struggle to gain personal and social
acceptance, some kids become over-competitive and/or
over-aggressive. They're apt to view any criticism or
feedback as a challenge, and reflexively need to defend and
battle to maintain their own self-respect. Kids and adults
with genuine self-respect and self-love can see potential
good in (respectful) criticism, and receive it graciously.
Egotism refers to
feeling and broadcasting "I'm better than you (or
everyone)." Competitiveness refers to the
chronic need to beat you at some imagined or real
contest. Some wounded people have both these burdens.
competition occurs when people strive to be their
personal best,without needing to be smarter,
stronger, or more successful than other people. They're
competing with themselves. Such people are
good-humored losers, and genuinely admire others' personal
achievements. Do you know kids and adults like this? Are
Bottom line - personal competitiveness
ranges from mild to normal and healthy to compulsive
(unconscious) and excessive. When you must live or work with
a compulsive competitor, how do you react? Silent dislike or
scorn? Sarcasm? Avoidance? Impatience? Submission? Pretense?
Criticism? Disrespect? Argue (Compete)? Gossip about them?
Rudeness? Complain? Whine? Confront? Does your response earn
your self-respect, honor your
integrity, and nourish your
There's a better way!
Remind yourself of these
as a foundation. Then follow up with choices like these:
what you (a) feel about and (b) need from the competitive
person - e.g. one or more of these: to...
vent - describe
what you're feeling, and be accepted;
inform - tell the
other person what you observe about them;
cause change -
invite him or her to moderate their
set or enforce a
boundary with the person;
Mentally review (a)
your mutual rights and (b) the
steps for effective
assertion. The more you do, the more automatic this will
for maintaining a two-person
awareness bubble, steady
eye contact, and staying focused on filling your
responses like these, depending on your current mix of
To vent, inform, or
"(Name), I feel you often need to compete or be 'right'
when we differ."
you argue and debate rather than discuss, I feel
"(Name), are you aware of what you're doing with me
do you need from me now?"
seem to need to make any disagreement into a contest."
theme of these examples, and tailor them to fit your
style. There are many similar options.
To cause change or
set a limit:
"(Name), I need you to just hear my opinion, not to
argue or debate with me."
now on, (Name), I'm going to call you every time I feel
you're competing / arguing / debating with me instead of
"(Name), I'm not going to argue / debate this with you.
We just see it differently."
seems very important to you that I agree with you on
With any of these
responses, the other person may "resist" - argue,
explain, deny, blame you, bluster, whine, etc. It helps to
expect such resistance as a normal reaction, and
respond with respectful
Then repeat your original brief response
calmly, with steady
eye contact, and be quiet and attentive. repeat this
sequence until you get what you need or your needs change.
Here's another option:
The "I'm Right!" Exercise
there kids or adults in your
life with whom you "argue?"
Do each of you get focused
on "winning," getting "your
way," and/or "being right"?
In most cases, such contests
are lose-lose, because both
disrespected, unheard, and
frustrated. Better options
are win-win problem-solving,
or - in the case of *values*
conflicts - agreeing
respectfully to disagree.
Arguments and fighting can
turn from differences of
opinion or perception into
struggles." This brief
YouTube video explores what
to do about that
Try this safe, powerful way
to illustrate the silliness
and futility of "I'm right!
No, Iam!" battles:
Agree you have a power
struggle, without blame
Stand and face your
partner from about 12"
away. Each of you make
an "L" shape with your
right arm so your
forearms are vertical
Clasp your right hands
gently, and hold
comfortable eye contact.
One of you start by
saying with some
right." As you
do, rotate both your
arms leftward to
horizontal. Don't use
physical strength and
don't resist - this is
not a physical contest.
Do not smile.
With steady eye contact,
the second person says
rotates both your arms
rightward 180 degrees to
The first person says
"NO! I Am
rotates both arms back
180 degrees to
Repeat this sequence
four or more times,
escalating the tone and
power of your voice and
the speed of
arm-rotation each time.
Keep steady eye contact,
and don't joke or grin.
See what you feel and
think, and discuss
this together as
you'll both wind up
exercise vividly illustrates
(vs. explains) the
pointlessness of arguing -
i.e. trying to persuade each
other "You're wrong and I'm
right!" A variation is to
say "I (did 'x'" and rotate)
and the other person says
"No, you didn't," and
rotates back) Try that for
6-8 times, and see what you
feel... This exercise can be
specially helpful with
stubborn (insecure and/or
This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting
effective ways to respond to common social behaviors. This article offers ways to
respond effectively to an overly-competitive person. The ways are