There is nothing more infuriating than trying to talk to someone who has to “one-up” everyone that they are talking to– someone who views each piece of talk as a way to get supreme conversational dominance.
Everyone knows someone who tries to do this. It can be a casual acquaintance or it can also be a best friend, either way, she just cannot abandon the chance to prove how much smarter, better, wealthier, more fortunate, less fortunate, or sicker than anyone else. Whenever you have to tell a story, she has one to top it. Whenever you have good news to share, she has fantastic news. Anything that has happened in your life, she has experienced something more amazing and more terrible.
“You’re going to Alabama for the week? I’m spending my summer in Australia.”
“You missed your bus this morning? I got hit by a car and then had to walk five miles to work.”
“They canceled school because of a little snow? You know back in my day, we had to walk through mountains of snow in the cold to get to school” Said every grandparent ever.
This constant one-upping is not meant to make you feel worse about your life, but it is meant to make the one-upper feel better about his or her own life. Usually, this is because the one-upper will have low self-esteem, and if they were more confident in themselves, then the need to one-up would disappear altogether. So, that friend that is trying to one-up you every conversation is not trying to convince you that they are smarter, richer, or more interesting– they are trying to convince themselves.
But even if you know that the offender is just insecure, it is hard to figure out how to deal with one of these people. Do you risk calling them out and causing a scene, or just be polite and go along with their stories? There are some very suave responses that will help preserve the peace while putting the one-upper in their place.
There are even several subtypes of one-uppers:
These competitive moms want nothing more than to boast about how incredible their little darling is, and how they are so much cuter, smarter, and more precious than any other child out there. If your child started reading at four, then their child started at two. If your child got accepted to college, then guess what? Their child got accepted to Harvard.
However, this mommy is not really bragging about their kids, but they are insinuating that they are a better parent. The best thing to do is to remind her that being the first, better, or biggest is not everything. Try diffusing the situation by saying, “Oh your son Billy is skipping a grade? Aren’t you worried that he won’t relate to his peers?”
They are always in the know about what is hot and new, this one-upper likes to prove it when it comes to food, wine, or bars, or just about anything else because her taste is always better than yours. When you suggest a favorite restaurant, then she will counter with one that she has deemed to be more “authentic.” When you talk about a particular band that you are really into, then she will just scoff and suggest that they are a rip-off of some weird and obscure band that she listens to.
The Gourmand just wants validation, but when it does come to opinions, yours is just as important as hers is, so try to steer the conversation to fairness and not expertise. If she still constantly calls out your ideas, say “I like the food at Dumplins. You can choose next time” or, “That is nice about what you think about are/music/food–everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
If you have ever seen the movie ‘Inside Out’, then you have seen the character sadness. This one-upper takes it to a whole different level. They always have a tale of woe to put your minor troubles to shame. If you had the flu, then she just happens to have cancer. If you had a bad day, then every bad thing that could possibly happen happened to her. To this one-upper, her life is one long, desolate bout of wretchedness.
The Downer just wants positive attention. To avoid getting bogged down by her misery, whenever she starts to chime in on the conversation with some story about a worst-case scenario, say “I’m really sorry to hear that” and then just change the subject to something else, preferably something more upbeat. Don’t allow her to rain on your parade.
This troublesome college student will think that being busy is a sign of importance. “You think that your finals week was rough?” he says “I was up till four in the morning in the library for three days in a row.”
The Workhorse actually likes to sound busy because it makes him feel more important and valuable. Try offering to help them. “I am happy to help you study for your exams.” When they are confronted by the prospect of someone else being able to take credit for some of their thunder, or by the idea that their peers think that they are not capable of handling their workload, then these workhorses will remain quiet.
This person has to have the best of everything and will not settle for less. If you just happen to have painted your apartment, then the Braggart has to tell you about her new Tiffany vase that she just bought. If you went on a weekend getaway, then it could not compare to her latest exotic travel.
Braggarts try to build their identity around the money that they have as well as their possessions. Statements like “That’s very nice for you, but it is not in our budget right now’ can actually remind this clueless Braggart that not everyone can afford the luxuries they can. For the more stubborn Braggarts, try reminding them that having stuff is not everything by saying “We just don’t believe in spending $5,000 on a dining room table. After all, it is just stuff.”
Girl Code: When dealing with one-uppers it is okay to deflect and change the subject, but what about when the one-upper is a close friend? An honest conversation about how her one-upping makes others feel is probably in order. It can also help her get to the bottom of her issues that compel her to make everything a competition.