We all have a competitive drive to some degree. After all, you meet very few people who get a thrill out of being the worst at something. And, to a certain extent, competition is good. It pushes us to constantly improve.
But, as with anything, there's a line here. Yes, your competitive edge can be positive. However, take it too far, and suddenly you're just a cut-throat jerk that only cares about one thing: Winning.
You want to be driven, but you don't want to be a total steamroller.
Does this line between supportive and competitive seem impossible to walk? It's admittedly tricky, but still doable. Here are four tips to help you be pleasantly competitive:
1. Don't Be Self-Deprecating
When most people make an effort to avoid teetering off that overly-aggressive ledge, they often think that pointing out their own failures and flops is an effective way to demonstrate some humility. While that thought process is understandable, it's not your best course of action.
If you've ever dealt with that person who responds to complements and accomplishments with a self-deprecating, "Ugh, I thought I was terrible at that!", you already know how frustrating that can be--particularly if he or she was actually successful.
Your effort to be humble is admirable. But, in most cases, it just comes off as condescending--or worse, like you're fishing for additional praise and recognition.
2. Recognize Others' Successes
Being competitive is encouraged. Tunnel vision, however, is not.
What does this mean? You shouldn't be so zoned in on your own progress and goals that you neglect to recognize someone else's win. If someone knocks something out of the park or--gasp!--beats you in something, be a professional and offer a hearty congratulations.
Yes, it can be hard to suck up your pride and be a gracious loser. But, this is a key ingredient for being both competitive and supportive at the same time.
3. Collaborate When You Can
Sometimes we become so focused on competition, we neglect to identify any opportunities for collaboration.
However, the people you're matched up against are likely capable, intelligent, and accomplished--they're people you could learn a lot from, if you managed to place more of your emphasis on the process, rather than just the results. But, competition gets under our skin, and can cause us to make some irrational decisions.
So, if you think your high-profile project would greatly benefit from another teammate's help and insight, go ahead and open up that opportunity. Yes, it might mean you won't get all of the credit and glory in the long run, but your end result will be that much better. Plus, you'll get to soak up tons of additional knowledge along the way.
4. Compete With Yourself
Marathon runners are the ultimate competitors. They commit themselves to months and months of rigorous training in order to complete an incredibly physically demanding challenge.
But, the best part of how these athletes compete? For the most part, they only compete with themselves. They don't start each race with the goal of winning--they're just aiming to finish, and hopefully beat their personal best time. They don't concern themselves with what's happening in front of them or behind them.
Competing with yourself is the secret sauce to continuously improving, without stepping on other people. Even better? Aiming to top your own personal goals and ambitions can be ridiculously motivating and empowering.
There's a fine line to walk between being competitive and just being a jerk. Use these four tips, and you're sure to find that happy medium.