Stop One-Upping People If You Want To Connect

The common conversation:

Statement: “I had the coolest experience last week. I was on a business trip in New York City meeting with a new client and they invited me to see Billy Joel in concert at Madison Square Garden! The seats were amazing and it was by far the best concert I have ever been to.”


Reply: “Well you know the coolest concert I’ve ever been to…

We have all had a version of this conversation or possibly hundreds of them. My question is – how does this make you feel about the other person?

When someone one-ups you in conversation it makes you shut down and close off. It doesn’t leave you with a positive feeling toward that person and it definitely hurts all future interaction.

So why do we do it?


There are three main reasons we one-up others in conversation and fairly simple solutions for each:

  1. We are trying to relate
  2. We are insecure and others successes make us feel inadequate
  3. We struggle to not make everything about us


  1. We are trying to relate

I have seen many people do this and I am guilty of it as well. In an attempt to connect, relate and find common ground we end up one-upping people in conversation, which creates the exact opposite effect. If we will acknowledge their experience, ask questions to dig deeper and be genuinely interested and excited then there will be a chance for us to share and it will help us connect. It is when we fail to react and simply jump into our own experience or opinion that it feels like one-upping.


  1. We are insecure and others successes make us feel inadequate

We are all human and are plagued by inadequacies. When someone shares their successes or experiences we often feel defensive and so we try to make ourselves feel better or worthy by sharing our greatness. The truth is it doesn’t work, and one persons experience isn’t an attack on you or your lack. Practice being happy for other people – it’s liberating. When you feel the need to prove yourself, take a deep breath and praise the other person. They will love you for it and respect you because of it. That will make you great!


  1. We struggle to not make everything about us

The truth is that everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. When the conversation is focused on someone else we often feel a need to bring it back our direction. There is nothing horribly wrong with this feeling but the action of always making the conversation about you will not win friends or influence people. The opposite will. Make it about them. Become adept at asking questions and probing deeper. Be excited and amazed at what you find out and who they are. Typically, this behavior will be mimicked and they will in turn ask you about yourself and care about who you are. If you focus on being interested, not interesting – you will gain influence and people will like you.


One-upping others in conversation is so common it’s comical. But everyone who wants to make friends and gain influence with others needs to be aware of this natural likeability killer.






4 Responses

  1. I just received a question on this: What if your response is not “one-upping” but rather in an effort to relate to that person you’ll tend to say “i know how you feel, or it happened to me as well so it’s okay it happens to everyone” is this a good way to converse or has the same effect as one upping? Thank you!

    Here is my response: I don’t think the intention is bad but it is often done the wrong way. Make sure you validate their thought, ask deeper questions to let them fully explain & then it’s a natural place to relate. The problem comes with a quick response so it feels like you are one-upping instead of relating

  2. That is a great reminder to listen more in an effort to relate to my family and be a part of their world I am often guilty of this interuption , will make it part of my new year resolution, and work hard to pay attention to my conversations.

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