Lots of things I see on Linkedin annoy me, but the thing that has annoyed me most recently is lots of chatter about how ‘bad’ competitive people are and about how they need to learn not to be competitive. From what I read, it seemed to be a popular point of view.

 

For those who are sitting there judging people for being competitive, I want to say a few things:
Many people are naturally competitive. I make a lot of use of Gallup StrengthsFinder to identify our underlying talent themes, and one of those talent themes is competition. Looking at the data for over 13 million people who have taken StrengthsFinder, competition is in the top 5 for 10.9% of people (and yes, the data shows it is more prevalent in men than women). Assuming that those 13 million people are representative of the whole population, then at least 11% of people are naturally competitive. It is part of who they are. They will most likely get a real benefit from the competitive element and badges that things like Strava (a running/cycling/fitness data service) provide, and I think that’s fine! I know that those same things will leave some of you absolutely cold. That is equally fine.

 

What gives you the right to judge? If somebody is naturally competitive, what gives anybody else the right to decide that being competitive is bad and they need to be ashamed of their natural talent and stop using it? If you’re busy judging people who are competitive, I’d hazard a guess that you’re doing it because you’re not competitive. There is an unconscious bias that can be at play, where we seem to assume that we’re the model of ‘right’ and we judge people for how similar they are to us. Or, perhaps, worse still: you are competitive yourself but you’re comparing yourself and others to some mythical version of how you think we should be, and finding everybody lacking.

 
Telling people to stop being who they naturally are isn’t a route to helping them succeed. Rather, there is a real power in recognising those talents and helping people to use them more effectively. Just because somebody is naturally competitive, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’ve learned to hone and harness that natural talent and use it for the good of themselves and others. Helping somebody to take a raw talent and hone and apply it often makes a huge positive impact. A much bigger positive impact than telling them that they should be ashamed of it and stop it.

 
There is no one model of what makes a perfect person. Being competitive is neither good nor bad. Judging others for what they are is bad. Judging others for what they’re not is bad. Being resourceful and making the very best of who we are is good. Valuing others for who they are is good. If we can get that, I’ve got a whole list of other areas for us to stop judging difference, and start valuing diversity…

 

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