The 'One-Upper' Is A Huge Friendship Red Flag - How To Handle It

Sharing some exciting news with a friend — only to be met with dismissal and an attempt at overshadowing — can feel like a punch to the gut. When this reaction is always coming from the same friend, it should be considered a red flag.


Any friend who can't be happy for the people in their lives might not be a healthy person to keep in contact with in the long run. On the other hand, at some point, everyone behaves in a way that can be seen as problematic at times. So, what's a friend to do?

If you have a friend who is a chronic one-upper, you don't have to just let the behavior slide, nor do you have to fly completely off the handle. Turns out, there is a middle ground and it's always the best place to start. The following tips are here to help you navigate this common friendship challenge in a way that treats both you and your friend with respect and dignity.

Consider the intention

It's completely normal and understandable to prickle when a friend attempts to one-up you, especially if it isn't the first time. Before you react though, try to get an understanding of what might be motivating this behavior. Take a look at your friend's body language and facial expressions when she goes into one-up mode. If she seems genuinely excited for you, even as she talks about herself, she might not realize what she's doing. Some people, especially those who are neurodivergent, primarily relate to other people through similar experiences. What looks like one-upping to you might be an attempt to simply relate.


If your friend appears tense, closed off, or irritated when you share your success story, her intentions might not be so innocent. Spotting a subtle eye roll before she launches into her own significantly more impressive achievement is a good sign that she's acting out of spite or envy.

Speak up

If you can't speak to your friend about your concerns, then are you really even friends? While it might be a difficult conversation to have, it is absolutely imperative that you mention your friend's one-upping behavior to her directly. Be prepared for her to get defensive; it isn't easy to hear about your flaws.


In order to help her be more receptive to your concerns, approach the subject with compassion and limit your comments to your own experience. Don't speak as if you know her feelings, thoughts, or motivations.

Consider utilizing "I" statements to communicate how you feel when your friend one-ups you and avoid using "you" statements, which can easily come off as accusations. For example, "I feel unsupported when you share your own accomplishments rather than acknowledging mine" is an "I" statement. "You always think your accomplishments are more important than mine," is a "you" statement that assumes your friend's thoughts and sets you up for a defensive response.

If your friend agrees to try to do better, thank her for listening and give her some space to process.


Give your friend some grace

Once you've finished your open and honest discussion with your friend, be prepared to give a grace period while she works on her behavior. Habits can't be changed overnight. Keep an eye out for signs that the effort to change is there. If your friend starts to one up you but realizes her mistake, apologizes, and allows you to continue, then things are on the right track. Just make sure that the issue continues to move forward rather than sliding back.


Beware of a friend who promises to work on changing hurtful behavior and then immediately continues it as if the conversation never took place. This is a major red flag that can reveal a disingenuous character. If you step back to allow your friend some grace and she doesn't change anything about her behavior, it might be time to start asking yourself some difficult questions about the past and the future of your friendship. 

Perform an honest assessment

If you've considered your friend's intentions, talked it out, and waited patiently for change to be implemented and you're still being one-upped, it's time to get real. If your friend fully knows that her behavior is causing you pain and frustration and yet she continues to do it without remorse, this is likely not a friendship that is worth the cost you're paying. Ask yourself why you still consider this person a friend.


When you recall the entirety of your friendship with this person, have you had more positive interactions than negative ones? Do you feel better or worse when this person is around? Life is too short to spend with people who bring you down instead of lifting you up. In the end, a friendship breakup may be in order, and that's perfectly okay. It's only a myth that friendships are supposed to always last forever.