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Surviving Around Overly Competitive People

Updated on July 26, 2018

There is high probability that you have to put up with overly competitive people in at least one area of your life. We've all been there. In this article we'll be looking at way to make those situations or relationships easier, so read on.

Overly Competitive People are Not Always Bad

The first thing to understand is that overly competitive people don't have to be the villains. What we talk here about is a characteristic of personality and may happen at an unconscious level. Some of your close friends may be highly competitive, and that can be a good ground for conflict, but it doesn't mean they hate you or they are bad people in general.

When Does Competition Become Unhealthy?

In baby lion cubs, competitions looks very cute. However, this is not the case when it happens among grown up humans. Some level of competition is natural and it comes from human biology. Our close animal relatives - the chimps, display very competitive behavior. When Chimps compete against each other, it's usually a fight that determines social status in a group. In the past, this must have been a matter of survival for humans as well. That may explain why we have a strong competitive drive.

Competitiveness Has a More Physical Expression in Man

Everyone has a competitive drive, but in most of the cultures in the world, women are not encouraged to display aggressive and assertive behavior. This may arguably have a biological basis. Although women may not express competitiveness as directly as men, the competitive drive is present for them as well. Probably because of cultural bias, women tend to have more indirectly aggressive behavior. On the other hand, man have competed more openly and physical in the past. Today still, competitiveness among men is generally more common.

Competitiveness in Friendships

If you are a social person, you have at least one overly competitive friend. This means they want to be good in almost everything or maybe even more important - to be better than you. This is obviously silly and immature behavior, but some grown-ups overly indulge in such situations. This drive especially develops in individuals that have a sporting personality. Although in some situations competition can be motivating, having an overly competitive friend may not be always fun.

Competition at the Workplace

The professional workplace is an environment that is naturally stimulating competition. Because people are more likely to be evaluated, judged and pushed out of their comfort zones in general, some nasty competitive behavior can arise. Professional relationships can be very tricky when it come to dealing with overly competitive people, since unlike with friends, you need to keep the communication going even with people that you personally don't like very much.

Competition in Families

Inside the circle a family, competition may not be so obvious as in some of the previously discussed scenarios. This however, doesn't mean that is entirely non-existent. At a subtle level, every person is truing to earn greater credibility about his actions and words and in turn gain more social influence. Some individuals have greater emotional intelligence and understand not to overdo that in the context of their family. By definition a family should be a supportive environment, and this means less competition. Some common exceptions include competitiveness between siblings, which is completely natural in young age.

Romantic Relationships

Intimate relationships may seem like the place that is less likely to find competition, but it's not completely so. In loger relationships there comes a phase where partners tend to become more competitive than usual and establish more authority. Again, it all depends of keeping it in small and healthy doses and not forgetting about love and respect.

How to Deal With Overly Competitive Folks

One obvious way is to avoid them. This may be easy to do with friends you just met, and can immediately tell that they will give you a hard time, but it's not so easy to do with loved ones and colleagues. When a stranger is coming in aggressively trying to start the competition, just notice that he wants to get you to react, so react as least as possible. Act like you are busy and having something important to do even if that is not true.

Avoiding Conflict When you Have To Communicate

At the workplace or with family members, avoidance is not always possible. What you should do instead, when you have to communicate is not to engage in conflicting competitive talk or behavior. When communicating a problem with your colleague, you should focus on the solution and try not to blame him/her.

More Conflict Resolution Techniques for the Workplace

If you need to make a certain professional decision or ask for a favor from your overly competitive colleague, tell him/her that you have to do this, because the project or your boss demands it and it's not your personal will. Also if you have to criticize someone, try to put the focus on the task that needs to be done, and don't criticize him/her directly. Another useful technique when you are being verbally attacked is not to directly counter-attack, but rather to listen and act surprised or confused at first. Then you can take another viewpoint, and although you acknowledge and understand the other person's viewpoint explain it's not possible to fix it at the moment, but maybe later.

Competitiveness in Perspective

Although we may mostly find competition uncomfortable, there is great value to it. Some healthy levels of competitiveness can dramatically increase productivity at the workplace. It can be a motivation to improve and grow. It is also one of the main dynamics that keeps the world economy developing, so don't blame everything on to competitive behavior but try to make the best of it.


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