Our culture, for better or for worse, is highly competitive. There is a proverbial ladder in every area of life that can be climbed. Social ladders, corporate ladders, popularity ratings, sales quotas, quarterly results, tournaments, play offs, championships- all to determine who will be the best. Our culture thrives on competition. This isn’t true of every culture. Not every culture has the insatiable desire to be the best, the richest, the strongest, the prettiest, the most influential. But ours seems to.
And being competitive isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a force in our society that colors the way we think. Being competitive can be a helpful driver in sports, and work, and deadlines. It can motivate us and push us to new heights. Competition has its place.
Just not in our relationships.
Competition can be highly destructive in relationships. If competition becomes a way of life, then there always has to be a winner and a loser, the best and the worst, the top and the bottom. Relationships cannot thrive in those kind of competitive conditions.
Are you a Type A person? Are you driven, naturally competitive, and always looking for ways to improve? Do you have a critical eye? When you get into conflicts, are you tempted to win, or to play dirty? Is it hard for you to apologize when you’re wrong? Yeah, me too.
Here are a few tips to help you relate better in your relationships.
- Learn Empathy: Your best defense against destructive competition in relationships is empathy. Take time to set aside your own ego and walk a mile in your partner’s shoes. Feel what it’s like to be him/her. Try on your spouse’s life for a while and empathize with the amount of stress he/she is under.
- Practice Empathy: Make Empathy a regular practice. At your first critical thought, do an internal check and ask yourself, “Am I missing something?” You may easily see what is occurring on the outside, but take a minute to consider what is occurring on the inside. Ask yourself, “What are they experiencing right now?”
- Communicate Empathy: Once you take the time to see how the other person is feeling, and what he/she may be experiencing on the inside, communicate empathy out loud. Repeat the words, “I see what you mean. I get how you feel.” AND DON’T say the dreaded word, “But…” That nullifies your empathy. There should never be a “but” to empathy.
- Learn How to Be a Good Loser, Lamo, Wanna-Be: You don’t have to be right about everything. You don’t have to have it all together. You can suck at stuff and still be loved. Seriously. I’ve tried it, it’s true. You can be a loser and a lamo at some things. I know, I know, it’s embarrassing to have flaws for the world to see. I understand how shameful it can feel when you fail or get rejected or feel like a LOSER at life. So just take it in stride. Learn how to be The Best Loser, Lamo, Wanna-Be there is!
When you practice empathy in your relationships at home and a work, you will feel happier. You will feel less pressure to be perfect, and to expect perfection from others. You will feel closer to the people around you. You will feel less temptation to compare yourself with others and more satisfaction just being who you are. You will also find that giving some empathy to yourself is not such a bad idea, either.
Michelle, great article and very timely! A nice reminder that while winning is great, it’s not always important to win, especially with your spouse. Something I need to remind myself!
Isn’t that true, Thomas H.? When we feel like we’ve won an argument, we’ve really just lost a level of togetherness. Thanks for your comment!