Aug 11

It happens all the time in life, it doesn’t matter if it’s a competition, traffic or the gym. People see you at a certain pace and their inner competitor kicks in and they try their damndest to outdo you, sometimes at the cost of their own embarrassment. Ever stay put when a red light turns green just to see the douchebag next to you peel off in an attempt to get ahead of you? I have. People who do this intrigue me and after seeing it happen in conversation with friends, in traffic on the way to the office and in the gym when I’m trying to workout I thought I would look further into why it is that people become so competitive in everyday life.

The One-Upper

I have a few friends that are one-uppers. They may not even realize they are but the knowing glances that get exchanged between my other friends when it happens let’s me know that it is a fact. A one-upper always has to match your story or tell one better or worse than yours. You talk about having your business in arrears and they tell you how their job is in jeopardy, you talk about you scoring the game winning touchdown and they’ll tell you about how they saved someone’s life. It can get irritating if you don’t know the person but most one-uppers keep the one-upping to those they know.

The way I deal with people like this is to ignore it and keep the conversation going. I see it as a nervous twitch where some people feel uncomfortable when you have the floor and try in vain to win it back. I’ve also noticed that one-uppers tend to only do these things when there are more people around them. You and he/she having a one on one conversation is a different picture as they will actually listen and offer advice on your plight. Many people have social conversation ticks that bewilder me and this one is no different. I’ve seen people who crack jokes nonstop when there’s a group but are shy and reserved when it’s just us two, some who get ghostly quiet when there’s a crowd and others who become downright mean. While you may try to confront a one-upper to change, the fact that they don’t realize that they’re doing it may prove your efforts futile.

The Gym Champion

You put a set amount of weight on the squat rack, push through it and settle down to rest between sets when you notice the much skinnier guy (who had a small amount on his rack) matching you, after staring at you during your first set. You watch him almost kill himself before making a hasty exit, embarrassed and you wonder what all of that was about. Another time you walk up to the treadmill next to a guy doing a brisk walk and proceed to start your intervals when you notice he’s looking at your panel. When you put the speed up to run, the brisk walker is suddenly sprinting his ass off only to crash out after 5 minutes and rush to the locker room to change and leave.

What possesses the gym champion to behave this way and ruin his workout? He would do better to get himself some ear buds, buy an mp3 player and keep his eyes ahead and on his fitness goals. Most people in the gym do not care how much you lift, how long you can run and how great at athletics you are. People are in the gym to improve their physical and get home. What is your point?

People can be unnecessarily competitive to their own detriment. I check myself in traffic daily to be sure that I am not just speeding up because a fast car got in the lane next to me. I wear ear buds to the gym and keep my blinders on – me, myself and I are my only concern in there. In conversations I take turns and I don’t try to outdo people in oppression olympics or dream reaching. If I can help it, I talk, then they talk and I respond. I congratulate or I console but I don’t try to outdo, it’s a bit annoying to others. What is it that makes people behave this way I wonder and am I unique in knowing several (not one) people like this. How about you denizens out there, have you dealt with many “one-uppers” or are you one yourself?

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