Competition With Others

You might be tempted to say, “What’s wrong with a little
competition?” Nothing’s wrong with it. It’s healthy. It’s when your need
to compete and be superior to someone else gets in the way of the best possible
outcome for both of you. That’s when competition becomes a liability. I’m
talking about the kind of person who always needs to be “one up” on
other people.

People who live their life in competition with everyone – and we all know
people like that – might get admired for their achievements, but they don’t get
the freely given attention and support of others. People who exude the message:
“I’m smarter, or prettier, or richer, or more committed than you are”
don’t garner people’s trust. That’s because the message is clearly about
“Me first.”

A willingness to be flexible means that occasionally you’re not number one. You
may need to take a backseat to a colleague who’s trying something innovative.
It may mean that you’ll need to compromise in a negotiation. Maybe the fact
that you’re the best salesperson of the month every month prevents other people
from even trying.

Does your level of competitiveness get in the way of relationships? If you play
a one-on-one sport such as tennis or racquetball, do you always play to beat
the other person? If you play board games or video games with your children, is
it more important to win than to have fun?

On the one hand, it seems as though we’re being pushed to be more competitive.
Many of us work for companies that are in fierce marketing battles with global
competitors. There are fewer tax dollars to go around; fewer jobs in many
industries. Yet, the paradox is the solutions we’re finding to those problems
involve not more competition, but more collaboration.

I just have one tip for you if you have a streak of competitiveness that gets
in the way of your relationships – stop seeing the other person as an opponent.
Reframe the relationship as a mentoring one, as a friendship, as a chance to do
something together that neither of you could do alone. Look directly into that
person’s eyes and see a fellow human being who doesn’t want to be beaten or
made into a loser any more than you do. People who are always out to win may
collect a lot of marbles, but they lose a lot of friends. And I’d trade a bag
of marbles for a good friend any day.