We all fall into this habit from time to time. However I believe that how much it affects your relationships depends on how much you actually participate. If it is once in a while; it can be forgiven. The hard part and the detriment to relationships really comes if it chronic.
I will admit that I had a real problem with this. Then I met the neighbor down the street.
She was phenomenal at it! You couldn’t share a story without her chiming in, she had done that before, seen that before, lived that before. Basically she had done everything, knew everything and had to tell you all about it. Of course, after you shared something about yourself to get her going.
Frustrating! Wow. I started avoiding her, and soon complained to one of the other neighbors about how I just didn’t like being around her. And then I heard the words that would change my life.
“Yeah, she’s a one upper.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s when somebody always has a story to tail on to yours, they have done better, know someone you don’t and basically they portray that they are better than you. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know she does it.”
“Oh, and it usually starts with a “Well, I”.
AHHHHH!!!!! I thought inside, I do that. Oh no!
From then on, I started to monitor what I was thinking and how I would react while hearing a story from others. To live in the moment and listen. Give them the spotlight, let them have the win. Appreciate that they chose to share something with me, rather than making it about me. It was really rewarding. People shared more with me. It was awesome.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As a parent, and a grown up, we naturally have more stories to tell, simply for the reason that we have been alive longer. When our children share a story with us, it a relational moment. This is huge!
Story telling has long been a way of communicating. Traditions, life lessons, relating to painful experiences, good times. The act of telling a story is a gift. However, I see quite a gift in listening. Giving the other person the floor. Letting them shine. Imagine how powerful of a bond that is created when one person shares something special with another person and the other person just says. “That’s awesome.” They are then fully enveloped in the sharing moment with that person. They are one. This builds a relationship that is give and take, supportive and trusting.
I think this is especially powerful with kids. Their stories are real, and to them their only perspective right now. How you react, with an accepting, supportive and listening gesture rather than a “this is what I did, when that happened to me” is the most genuinely loving thing you can do.
Be excited with them, be sad with them. Don’t think of what you can say when they are done talking. That is sad.
While I try very hard to understand others and relate to where they come from; I can’t deny this is a hard one to overlook. I believe that people can only change if they are consciously aware of something that they are doing, that isn’t working. That is why I bring this up. Maybe someone will read this that has struggled lately with their relationships, and how their friends/family relate to them. Maybe see a little of this in themselves. As I did.
I read today on the subject the idea that people do this because they honestly want to impress the other person. They feel as though when they share in this way, the other person will see them as amazing, and someone to look up to. We should feel honored for people to think enough of you to try to impress you in this way. They aren’t trying to out-do, their desire is to simply relate to someone and to be ok, or more than ok, in that person’s eyes.
We all have struggles and moments when we are uncertain. Stress dominates our lives. I think basically all of us just want a cheerleader and someone to say “Go Gettum,” or “that’s awesome!” or “that is the funniest thing I have ever heard.”
Drowning out someone’s story with your own only limits how much that person will share with you going forward. So next time you hear yourself say “Well, I” add on “think that is just awesome,” or “I am so happy for you” And see if you don’t get a different result.
With Love, H