How to put friendship rivalry to an end

Mar 7, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Are you locked in a comparison game with a friend who's become skinnier, higher-paid or more (insert something you want) than you? Trying to one-up each other is an endless game, especially if your self-worth gets knotted up in it. Save your friendship from embittering rivalry with these refocusing techniques.

rivaly between two women arm wrestling

Facing the ugliness
of rivalry

Are you locked in a comparison game with a friend who's become skinnier, higher-paid or more (insert something you want) than you? Trying to one-up each other is an endless game, especially if your self-worth gets knotted up in it. Save your friendship from embittering rivalry with these refocusing techniques.

It's a common tragedy. At one time or another, all of us women have found ourselves caught in a web of icky competition with another sister. Whether she started it or *gulp* we did, the game is on and we can't seem to stop trying to outdo her or feeling snubbed by her jabs of superiority.

There are few things uglier than two talented, smart women going at each other's throats. Heaven knows, we have enough enemies without having to turn on each other. Here are some things to think about for diffusing the tension.

Subliminal messaging

Sometimes envy — and the need to outdo someone — comes from a basic (and innately harmless) desire to simply get to do what they do. For example, if you're seething at a woman who is confident and easy-going in her conversations, you might take a step back and realize that you crave a bolstered esteem in your own interactions. Use your envy as an arrow pointing you to a desire that you're ignoring. Your emotions might be telling you something completely different than you think.

She's trying just as hard

Rivalry is usually double-sided, which means everyone involved is insecure, no matter what it looks like on the outside. Your rival will lose her taunting power if you can see her as a frightened woman who is trying just as hard to prove herself as you are. Compassion is an amazing game-changer. If you can get there, you will see her efforts for what they are, instead of challenges, and you'll have the freedom to step aside without retaliation, instead of fuming and planning your next move.

The kindness redirect

This is where it gets tough. Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk up and tell her something nice. It will blow her mind. I recommend steering clear of compliments that deal with physical things. She doesn't need to know her hair looks good (she can turn those kinds of remarks against you, too), but she'll melt if you tell her how much you appreciate her work, her insightful words or her dedication to a cause.

These things will take courage and soul-searching on your part, but will absolutely erode the bitterness. These will push you and your rival back onto the territory of peace with the possibility of friendship. And that's something worth fighting for.

More friendship

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