Dave Kovar's Living Lessons: Don't Be A One-UpperDon’t Be A One-upper (A re-post from my book “Brief Moments of Clarity”)

Several times in my life I’ve caught myself trying to outdo someone when it wasn’t really necessary or appropriate. For example, a friend of mine was sharing his excitement over a recent four-day vacation to San Diego. Instead of being happy for him, I found myself telling him about my week long cruise to Alaska. It may have sounded innocent enough, but upon reflection, it seems that at some level my ego found it necessary to one-up him and brag that my vacation was somehow better than his vacation.

I remember witnessing another classic example of one-upmanship while attending a funeral – fortunately it wasn’t done by me this time. I was having a heartfelt moment with the spouse of the deceased when we were approached by a casual acquaintance who stepped in and said, “I know exactly how you feel. A good friend’s father just passed away a couple months ago and it has been pretty hard on me. Don’t worry, it’ll get easier.” I’m not sure what this person’s intent was, but I do know instead of just supporting the spouse and letting her grieve, this person found it necessary to let her know that she wasn’t the only one who has been through a recent heartache. And I just can’t help thinking that your good friend’s dad is a bit different than a spouse

However inappropriate the comment was at the time, it was really beneficial for me to hear. I vowed to myself at that moment to NEVER be a one-upper again. Since then, I’ve caught myself many times wanting to say something like, “That’s nothing – you know what happened to me?” Or, “That’s pretty cool, but you know what’s really cool? One time I…”

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t swap stories with our friends or enjoy sharing an occasional anecdote when appropriate. However, we should try to be mindful of the reason for sharing our story. If it adds value to the conversation, great. But if it really is just a subtle way of competing with someone, keep quiet and simply appreciate the story or offer support for a difficult situation. And for goodness sake, don’t be a one-upper.