How To Deal With a Friend Who Tries To Outdo You

by | General Social Life

How do you respond to that annoying guy who “always has to one-up you”?

Maybe they act like a “know-it-all or brag too much, in any case, what’s the best way to respond?

For example:

You: Start talking about starting a new hobby.

One-Upper: Starts talking about their achievements in that hobby.

You: Starts talking about an achievement you recently did.

One-Upper: Starts talking about how they did that years ago and can teach you.

It can be annoying indeed.

Here are some ways to handle it from members of The Power Moves forum.

How to Deal with Braggarts

#1. Ignore Them

Growfast responds in these situations by making a face and ignoring the person.

The Slightly Amused + Demeaning Looks

One that Transitioned suggests is to glance at them with a slightly amused look (so people notice), and then add a statement to smoothen it a bit. Then, if they pull another one-up, give them a look that says, “Really mate? Wow, you are really socially clueless…” (and smoothen it with another statement again).

The Exaggerated “I’m Impressed” Look

A good approach to surface and thread-expand the “non-coolness” of the bragging is to make an exaggerated “I’m so impressed, look at this guy” face and smile a bit while you  look around at the other people (but not to him):

Tom Hiddleston's Impressions: Robert De Niro  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfT-UZCA6Tg | Tom hiddleston, Viaje a las  estrellas, Hombres

That recruits others in your team where you all agree that “he’s bragging way too much (and is not good enough for us)”.

Kavalier typically takes a similar approach of ignoring them with facial expressions, but he also takes it a step further by adding more details to the topic. He says:

Kavalier: “Since they hijacked the conversation, I feel it’s important to put it back on track, otherwise you and the other participants won’t have anything to work with.”

With this approach, YOU manage the flow of the conversation and maintain leadership.

His examples:

You: “I’ve just gotten into riding unicorns. Man, it’s really fun!”

One-Upper: “Oh, nice. I won 5 World Unicorn Drivers Championships. In the last one I managed to recover the lead after a big crash with 8 riders, even though I had lost my helmet and rein and had to guide the beast by grabbing its horn.”

You: “Yeah, that’s impressive, man (validates him). Man, unicorn riding is really fun (moves the conversation back on track). Yesterday we learned this and that, and [proceed to narrate the fun experience you had]…”

In the second example:

You: “Man, great news!! In the last class, I finally managed to parallel park the unicorn.”

One-Upper: “Oh, nice. I won 5 World Unicorn Drivers Championships. In the last one I…(continues to social climb). If you want, I can teach you.”

You: “Yeah, sure. Man, that was really hard to do because, you know, with horses you just have to do this, but unicorns do this and this and that makes it impossible. So I [move the conversation back on track from here]…”

#2. One-Up Them Back

However, the “yeah, sure” in the last example is a response that gives power to the one-upper because it buys into the “teacher frame” they set. (If you’re saying “yes” to their offer for teaching, it implies you need their teaching/leadership and disempowers you.)

So, Bel recommends another way of responding:

You: “Man, great news!! In the last class, I finally managed to parallel park the unicorn.”

One-Upper: “Oh, nice. I won 5 World Unicorn Drivers Championships. In the last one I…(continues to social climb). If you want, I can teach you.”

You: “Nice man! I see you’re starting to go places in your life (one-ups them back)! Anyways, yesterday I [move the conversation back on track from here]…”

This can be fair depending on the situation.

Reject Their Teacher’s Frame

If a one-up isn’t appropriate for the situation, you can always just deny the teacher/pupil frame by rejecting it.

Something like:

One-Upper: “Oh yeah, I did that 2 years ago, I can teach you how.”
You: “Oh, yeah, cool, you’ve tried that as well, I wasn’t exactly looking for a teacher, but it’s soooo much fun, we went there and [move the conversation back on track]…”

#3. Validate Them

We saw it a little bit earlier, but you can also validate them as a valid response.

Validating that person and making them feel good may be the way to go if the one-upper is a bit lower value and trying to portray themself as at your—or the other people’s—level.

Here are some examples from John Freeman:

You: Start talking about starting a new hobby.

One-Upper: Starts talking about their achievements in that hobby.

You: “Nice man, how did you do that?”

One-Upper: [Shares how they did it]

You: “Yeah, that’s really cool, how did you meet them?

One-Upper: [Gets to go on about how they met XYZ cool people]

Then, after you go along with his thread of conversation for a while (while showing that you’re listening), you can go back to yours.

Now, let’s see an example of a know-it-all and how you can deal with them.

How to Deal with Know-It-Alls

In this case study, we’ll see someone who often answers questions with “obviously” to social climb.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “Are you going to take the train to XYZ place?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, how else?”

#1. Reframe Their Fact As An Opinion

Transitioned offered the idea that since the know-it-all is stating his answers as facts, you can (gently) point out that they’re actually opinions.

Example:

In this case study, we’ll see someone who often answers questions with “obviously” to social climb.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “So you think everyone has seen Top Gun?”

#2. Address the Idea That It’s NOT Obvious

Another option, suggested by John Freeman, is to simply be assertive and state that what they think is obvious actually isn’t.

In this case study, we’ll see someone who often answers questions with “obviously” to social climb.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “Pretty sure there are people who haven’t watched it.”

You: “Are you going to take the train to XYZ place?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, how else?”

You: “There are several ways to go, walk, drive, bus, cycle.”

Here are some more ideas Ali Scarlett shares on how to deal with it:

#3. Framing buffet technique.

Ali here now, you can respond as if his power move is a normal comment.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “Anybody who hasn’t. What did you think of it?”

#4. Philosopher’s frame technique.

For example:

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “That depends. Everyone has different likes, tastes, and experiences. So, what’s obvious to one person might be unimportant to another. Anyway, what did you think of it, man?”

#5. Respectfully disagree and reframe.

Also, maybe another option here: reframe with information that supports your position.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You: “Well, it’s not the highest grossing film of all time, so I wouldn’t say it’s that obvious. But, what did you think about it?”

#6. Surface it with assertiveness.

If it truly gets out of hand, this is a technique mainly recommended for a particular annoying workplace power move. But, I see it as applicable to this situation as well.

The idea is to make it hard and unpleasant for them to play this game.

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”
Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”
You: “Why do you do that?”
Know-It-All: “Do what?”
You: “Say things are obvious that aren’t immediately obvious. It’s like you’re playing power games here man, jostling for status over me or something. It creates a bad vibe.”
Know-It-All: “Uh? No, I was just saying.”
You: “Yeah, but it’s annoying to say things are obvious when they aren’t.”
Know-It-All: “I don’t know man, I was just saying, don’t make it so difficult.”
You: “I agree. Let’s also agree to stop playing “that’s obvious” games then. Cheers.”

Ideally, he would backtrack. But, even if he doesn’t, drawing a line here this way is still a win.

Now, next time he pulls the “obviously” move you can add, “Oh-oh there he goes again,” and he will know you caught him.

But, I’d probably avoid this or only use it as a last resort because it doesn’t feel necessary given that the power/status-loss from a move like “obvious” feels pretty low (at least, to me).

These are all great techniques.

On the other hand, if it seems like this person is acting like a know-it-all because they have a competitive frame, you can try moving them to a more collaborative frame by validating them whenever they play their “that’s so obvious” game.

Ex:

You: “Have you watched the first Top Gun?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, who hasn’t?”

You(responding as if his tone and response was a normal comment) “Yeah, figured you’d seen it, you’re always so on top of these things. What’d you think about it, man?”

Or:

You: “Are you going to take the train to XYZ location?”

Know-It-All: “Obviously, how else?”

You(responding as if his tone and response was a normal comment) “Yeah, I think it’s one of the better ways to get there too, but you would know better than I do on that one. Why not take one of the other ways to get there this time though (subtly opens up the dialogue around the fact that there are, indeed, other ways to get to that location)?”

Then, if after validating him you notice that his tone and behavior aren’t changing, it might make more sense to move on to the more assertive strategies knowing that you gave him the chance to turn around.

But, it can be fair to try giving the know-it-all a chance before moving to more dominant techniques (especially if you consider them a friend).

Summary

Generally speaking, obvious bragging is self-harming. Especially, if the crowd is:

  • High-power and smart folks: they often see right through the bragging, so he’s losing status in those cases
  • Women he’s trying to impress: most women see through the bragging, even the “not-so-smart” ones

So, ignoring is a perfectly valid strategy since in many ways, the braggart is digging their own hole. But, if you want to be prepared for the exceptions (such as when they just need a little validation), this guide will prepare you for most situations.

About The Author

About The Author