Competitive thinking is one of the 12 most common problems with friends

1. July 2017 - Anika Semmer

Competitive Thinking: 3 Common Problems With Friends And How You Solve Them


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Even in the best friendships there are sometimes arguments, disagreements or hurt feelings. The good news is that most problems with friends can be easily resolved. Like unnecessary competitive thinking between friends.

Problem #2 – Competitive Thinking

Even among kindergarten friends, there is competitive thinking and downright competition. Who gets to go on the swing first? Who has built the nicer sandcastle? Who is more popular?

Through school and into adulthood, the pattern remains almost the same: Who wears the cooler clothes? Who is more successful in love? Who has the better grades? Who has the hotter job, the higher salary, the nicer flat?

This goes as far as the now almost proverbial “my house, my car, my boat” from a 90s commercial. Of course, it’s two male friends who compete to see who has “achieved more in life”. Typical! Many women would certainly say, the dick comparison now carried out by means of representative status symbols, which so preoccupied the boys even in pre- and early puberty. Women, on the other hand…

…are no better. You only have to watch a few episodes of Sex and the City to know that competitive thinking is also widespread among the closest best friends, regardless of gender.

The Eternal Competition

That’s the way we humans are: competitive thinking is ingrained in us and makes a lot of evolutionary sense. If you constantly compare yourself and try to get the best for yourself, you will come out on top. It’s just a shame when competitive thinking becomes so powerful that you lose your closest friends because of it…

Often it starts quite harmlessly… A friendly competition to see who has the better figure, who is better at a shared sport or who is more successful at school, university, training or in their career. Here envy plays just as much a role as the desire to distinguish oneself, to increase self-esteem by being better, more beautiful, more popular with others. And as is so often the case, when we compare ourselves, we usually do so with people who are close to us and who are in a similar situation in life: Siblings, classmates, fellow students, colleagues and even friends!

Competition between friends can get particularly nasty if both are competing for the same ideal partner. This is a pattern that provides material for legions of soap opera writers, but in real life it is not very entertaining and sucks. In the worst case, you feel like you have to choose between great love and best friendship. This situation is such a tricky problem that we dedicate a separate article to it in our series on the biggest problems in friendships under the title Jealousy.

So back to competitiveness in general: If friends focus more and more on the constant competition between each other than on what unites them in their friendship, then their friendship feelings towards each other will also change and become more and more hostile and aggressive. Unfortunately, many friendships have already broken down in this way. But it doesn’t have to come to that!

The Way to a Solution

Before an ongoing competition between friends intensifies and degenerates into war, there is always a chance to take the sting out of it in time. As with most interpersonal relationships, the key lies in two concepts: self-reflection and communication. In other words: first think about it thoroughly and then talk about it with the other person 😉

If you notice that your friendship is suffering from competitiveness, you should try to answer the following questions as honestly as possible:

  • What is it actually about? What are you competing about?
  • When was the first time you saw your friend as a competitor?
  • What did you yourself do to establish competition between you?
  • Was it a joking competition at the beginning? (e.g. teasing the other because you managed more push-ups etc.)
  • At what point did your competition become uncomfortable for you?
  • Do you think they also find it a problem how things are going between you at the moment?
  • Are you or both of you perhaps too proud to jump over your own shadow?
  • What does the friendship with this person mean to you?

If you come to the conclusion that the person is important to you and you see your friendship in crisis, then you should definitely talk to him/her about it. Put it on the table that it bothers you that you are constantly seen as a competitor lately. But be fair and, if necessary, admit your own mistakes.

Give your friend the chance to see things from his/her point of view and be open to criticism. Suggest that you both just stop trying to outdo each other at something or rubbing it in the other person’s face what you are better at.


After a long conversation, try to show that you are serious and make sure to switch off your own competitive thinking and all the corresponding behaviour!

If nothing changes, keep trying to talk to the person. If that doesn’t help either and the competition between you is pushing the friendship further and further away, then unfortunately the time has come to face the hard truth: your friendship is no longer going to work. It’s time to invest the energy you put into this friendship in vain in other friends. Or in making new friends.

Breach of faith and envy are other friend problems you can learn more about in our three-part article series.

Friendship, love and spending free time together with our favourite people: these are the topics on Abenteuer Freundschaft. On the ideas portal there are many tips for quality time in life through special activities with friends, as a couple and with children.

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