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My daughter’s friend is very competitive

Published: February 28, 2014 | Last Updated: February 28, 2014 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
A reader asks how she can support her daughter, who has a very competitive friend.



Help me guide my daughter in dealing with a friend who is super-competitive, turns everything into a contest, and of course, always seems to be the winner or better than. My instinct is to tell her to end the friendship, but she DOES need to learn how to deal with these types of people and cutting someone out of her life will not always be an option. What advice can you give me? And what’s a quick way to shut down these types of comments?

Signed, Joanne


Hi Joanne,

Your daughter is going to encounter very competitive people throughout life, so you’re quite wise to look for solutions rather than suggesting she simply cut her friend out of her life.

Without knowing how old the girls are, my advice may seem a bit vague, but you can tailor it based on age. One way to tone down a competitive friend is to bow out of competition and not play the one-upmanship game.

Have your daughter verbally take herself out of the contest. For example, if the two girls are drawing pictures and the friend claims to have the better masterpiece, she can say, “I drew the picture for fun and to express myself. I like both our pictures.”

If the friend gets a better grade on a test and the girl brags, your daughter can say, “Way to go.”

Build your daughter up to be the best she can be, to try hard and take pleasure in activities. Encourage her to focus on the enjoyment of playing a sport or doing a craft or whatever rather than the outcome. There will always be people better at things than she is and she will be better at others.

If it seems age-appropriate, your daughter can directly tell her friend, “When you compare your grades to mine, I feel frustrated. I don’t enjoy hanging out because I feel like I’m in a competition.”

Have her use “I” statements and avoid using “you” because that can come across as accusatory. She should also avoid terms like “always” and “never”. For instance, saying “You always compete with me” would probably make the friend feel defensive.

Help your daughter understand the positive aspects of this friendship. Encourage her to spend time with friends she enjoys and who build her up, while also explaining that we don’t have to like everything about our friends, and we can overlook some negatives if the overall relationship is positive.

Hope this helps.

Amy Feld*

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

**No information provided here or elsewhere on this blog is intended as medical advice. The blog focuses on everyday friendship problems.

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships

Comments (3)

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  1. lottie says:

    Hi N,
    Thank you for your reply which is appreciated.
    You may smile but the very person I mentioned in my reply only last night asked me round to hers,she was wanting to know how my new job is going.In the past she has always asked how much I earn but did not ask last night. She knows it must be reasonably well paid for me take it and travel. She started to compare herself with me saying I am older and in probably 5 yrs time I wont be able to manage the job which is so insulting and I think shows her jealousy and then immediately turned it round to brag how much tax she is having to pay on her pension.Laughably we are the same age by a few days.It was just an opening for her to brag.Then saying how materialistic I am, which a sore point for her. I am just a bit arty and have things around me that I have collected on my travels.I asked her who does she compare herself to.Her reply was that she just has the basics. Compared to someone with nothing she looks a materialistic. I never mention money but that is her goal to be the best with the most.The awful thing is she is so mean with money and will always get out of paying and sponge on others thinking it clever. She has had countless meals with my husband and me and would never bring a thing.It is a shame really because if she would only stop trying to be one up she a nice sort of person. Her brother told me she is the same with her siblings. I really wish she would stop. I will try your advice changing the subject. Sometimes I feel she would like me to have a down fall, of which I have had plenty in my life. It is almost as if she is jealous of my energy and yet she is not lazy. I wish I could find an answer.
    Thank you N once more for your reply.
    Regards Lottie

  2. lottie says:

    Hi Joanne,
    I really feel for you and your daughter with the problem. It could chip away at your daughters confidence.You are right to want good advice and I agree with Amys reply.Your daughter will go through life with lots of difficult situations and it is no use trying to avoid them. I like how you are sorting it now.
    A friend of mine from school is always competing with me and it is tiresome and we are well middle aged!!!So it doesnt go away.If ever I do anything that she feels threatened by, off she starts.It used to be about how much money she has brag brag brag until one day I told her to stop and said it wasnt very flattering to boast so much in fact it is down right rude. So I asked her who she was always comparing herself to.It stopped her for a while but unfortunately I know her too well. So I try to feel sorry for her.No matter what I do or did she turns it round to highlight her at all times to the point of being ridiculous.It will be interesting to read any other replies on this subject.Good luck Lottie x

    • N says:

      Lottie, competitive friends do remain competitive even in adulthood. Coming from a competitive field, the way I look at it is that healthy dose of competitiveness is good for growth. But I am a firm believer in that a competitive friend shows her competitiveness or oneupmanship through her actions and words. An example would be when a friend asks co-workers and friends, how much they earn. I personally think this is rude. A different example would be, like you said, a friend who boasts about something that makes her look and feel the best. They need constant approval that they are the best, which in turn, makes them feel good. Dealing with an extremely competitive friend, is a difficult one. Usually, making the competitive friend aware of her actions and words, leads her to mistaken it for jealousy. I deal with competitive people using the same tactic mentioned by Irene. I talk myself out of the competition. When someone one-ups, I don’t drag the conversation and add any more comments. Skipping subjects that would trigger a competitive friend is another option.

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