Anything You Can Do…

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Dear Dharma,

I have this friend, I love her dearly, but every time I tell a story or relay something that’s happened to me, she’s always done it better…or been worse off.  I know she doesn’t mean to, but it leaves me feeling inferior, like what I do and feel does not matter.

I try to be understanding and tell myself it’s just her way, but it’s really starting to take a toll on my self-esteem!  I do not want to hurt her feelings….but, please help!

Unheard

Dear Unheard,

Haha, this reminds me of a time when the exact same thing happened to me!  I was telling a friend how I felt so unheard and no one ever listened, and…

Oh Dharma, you crack me up…

Okay, seriously.  Letting this take a toll on your self-esteem is one of the things here you have control of, so take it.  This isn’t about you – she’s made that quite clear – it’s about her need to trump everyone for the best off/worst off position.  It’s grounded in insecurity, and it’s also the trademark of a really bad listener.

If you read Dharma somewhat regularly, you’ll recognize it when I say that you have so much more power to change your own behaviours and thought than you do changing others.  So that’s your first step – to re-program your thoughts away from thinking she’s belittling you and your experiences.  That’s not her intention, although it is indeed the end result.

You’re right in the fact that it’s just her way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring it to her attention and hope that, as a friend, she values your feelings enough to handle things differently.  The next time she counters your story with her better/worse version, you could say something like, “Well you’ve sure got me beat there, don’t you!”

Likely she’ll immediately get the point, and she’ll say something like, “No, no, I’m not trying to one up you!” – to which you respond, “Okay, well good then.”

And then let it be awkward. 

Because that’s what she’ll remember more than anything – the awkwardness.  People generally don’t like feeling awkward, and hopefully your friend won’t want to re-live it every time she talks with you.

Repeat as needed.

If that doesn’t start to turn things around, only you can decide if talking with her is worth feeling unimportant on a regular basis.

Dharma

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey

“You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”
John Wayne

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10 Comments

  • Pam says:

    I would lean over, place my hand on her arm and say, “Sweetie, it’s not about you right now, it’s about me”…….lol…..you will probably have to explain, using small words but the look on her face would be priceless…….

  • cronk says:

    It is a feeling of worthlessness on the part of your friend. She has so little esteem in her own life that she must meet you anecdote for anecdote and beat you every time to give herself “worthyness’. It is sad really. The same friends probably doesn’t shut up either. Silence in the conversation would cause her much discomfort.

    I am not sure you can ‘train’ her to be a better listener. it is not in her personality. She is a needy person. I would suggest talking to her less and if you must, keep in mind that she is a sad case.

    • Dharma says:

      You’re right, Cronk – being a good listener is either a personality trait or it isn’t – but I’m hopeful that she’s willing to give it a try in order to simply be a good friend!

      Thanks for the comment and hope you are keeping well!

  • Van Wilder says:

    I find this kind of funny because I have the same problem but in reverse. My friend keeps telling semi-cute little stories and anecdotes that remind me of a similar but much more awesome situation that happened to me! I quickly cut off the end of his lame ass recital to share my hella fabulous experience, but he gets all bent out of shape. Really dude, just bask in the reflected glow from my much better life!

    JK i just wanted to point out that maybe the other person simply can’t see the problem, and trying to bring it to their attention is a good first step. I agree with the other commenter that it is a classic “make yourself look better at the expense of others” situation, and the friend has low self esteem.

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