Have you ever met one of those people who's been everywhere and done everything and doesn't know anyone who hasn't?

Like no matter what you have to say they have to tell a bigger, better, and often longer story?

I usually chalk this behavior up to ego issues, but I don't really know how to respond to it when it starts to get a little irritating. I don't mind people who have interesting stories to tell, what gets me is the way some people feel the need to minimize other people's stories and experiences with this sort of self aggrandizing.

What's an appropriate way to get this kind of person to settle down, without shutting them down completely?

The specific person I have in mind is otherwise a decent human being, they just have an annoying habit that I'd like to address in a mostly polite way.

  • @WitanapDanu If you have an answer, please post it below. You don't need to ask the author if they will like your answer before you post it... unless you need a specific point of clarification. Thanks. – Robert Cartaino Sep 6 '17 at 2:34

Like NVZ said, I usually move on from the subject as well.

Some people get hints easier than others, at the start I would simply not give back any positive feedback to their story if it's of the 'one up' nature.

A polite way of doing this is changing the topic once they are done to something completely different - Not another story because it might still seem to them like you're in the 1-up battle by bringing a better story to the table, but more like just general conversation.

A less polite way to handle it would be to walk away once they are done with their story, giving no positive feedback. Eventually, they'll realize that not only are they not getting the ego boost they are looking for but that they're alienating you in the process.

A more direct approach, I have had one good friend with whom I took this approach, was to be direct, say something along the lines of

Sometimes I get the feeling that you're not listening to me when I talk, quite often I want to share a personal story with you and end up feeling as if you're only waiting for me to finish to tell your own story on the subject.

I'm sure the intentions are not to 'one up' you, so by changing their position from a less talkative to a more attentive one might keep them on topic.

As a last resort, which I've also taken many times, simply disregard that friend as such a close friend, accept them for who they are and understand that sometimes it's not your job to change them.

Also be wary of your surroundings, sometimes (often?) the 'one uppers' will be more of the 'one up' nature when in a crowd but behave completely different in a 1:1 conversation.


To know how to respond, you first need to know why you want to respond. You stated that it starts to get a little irritating. Two points about that. First, is it irritating only you, or is it also irritating others when it happens? Second, what about that behavior is actually irritating you? The fewer people who are irritated by the behavior, the more important the second question becomes. Still, for a mostly polite response you need to know why it irritates you anyway, since that is what you will need to identify to them when you do address it.

For politeness sake, you have to address it in a private conversation. That implies that it will be after the fact rather than in the moment. Doing so allows you to; a) consider what, and how, you're going to say, and b) allows them to get the ego rush, if that is why they do it.

When you do have the conversation, you need to be sure that you are speaking for yourself, even if the other double-dozen listeners were irritated as well. Unless the group has elected you as their spokesperson for this situation, you only represent yourself. You also need to take ownership of your feelings and emotions in the situation, rather than blame the other person for "causing" them. That is, no other person can make you feel a certain way; rather, you choose, all be it not at a conscious level, to feel certain emotions in response to given stimuli. After owning your emotional responses, you are able to indicate the behaviors you responded to.

Properly modified for the situation, and for what your real emotional response was, you could begin something like this:

You know, Bob, I've got this problem I could use your help with. Sometimes lately I've been feeling like I've been discounted, or that my experiences are not worth sharing. I get to feeling this way when I hear about experiences other people have that make mine seem so much smaller, especially some of your recent adventures.

From there, you can see if they will move into a mental position that allows you to encourage them to modify their actions, or if it would be a waste of your time to try. If it's going to work, they'll meet you halfway, and the conversation should carry itself from there.

There are a few important points in there.

  • You have a problem, not we, the group, others, etc., just you.
  • You are asking for their help.
  • You are expressing your feelings; the emotional context is important.
  • You are not attacking their actions, not even identifying a specific instance.
  • You have not blamed them for how you feel.
  • You have not given them the need to defend themselves, or their actions.

There are also a few things you can do to improve the encounter, and its chance for success. As said earlier, make sure it's a private conversation, not a whispered chat in the corner of the room, but a separate space, another room, etc. Prefer sitting, but sitting or standing, make sure that you are not somehow "above" them. If you're taller by more than a couple inches, sit with them. However the two of you are positioned, be sure that their back is protected and that they have the best, and clearest, exit route. The exit route, the equal level and the privacy all help to keep them from feeling trapped or feeling the need to become defensive.

In the end, especially if it's only you that is becoming irritated with their behavior, there may not be a way to change if, and you will have to either find a way to not be irritated when it happens, or grin and bear it until you can leave the situation.


What must be realised is that whatever you think you can do - you cannot change the way that people are, because it is up to them to change.

But you can change your own way of looking at this, and the simplest way would be to let this go. Stop it from mattering to you. Live in the moments of irritation and understand them - then try and conquer them by having no mind about it.

Because you value this person this is a very important step to take. Just wanting other people to be as you want them to be is a lost hope - but getting over your perceived story inside your own head is far more important to you, because you will be free, and can then move on. So my advice is to work on getting over this problem - in your own mind. And set yourself free.

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