The Joyful Pleasures and Shameful Permissions of Comparison
They say you shouldn’t compare yourself with others, but sometimes comparing is unblemished enjoyment. When your car outshines your neighbor’s, talking about cars is pleasurable, for example.
Pleasure of comparison:
On a trip to the Middle East I saw a cardboard hut beside a rich home. That’s doubly insulting if you live in the hut. I remember living in the Hamptons where rich and famous people live and play. It was there that I discovered I can hate the success of others.
Coveting destroys joy.
When your coworker gets the promotion you wanted, it’s aggravating to talk about work. She has the upper-hand. Don’t compare-up. It’s distressing.
When you’re more successful, better looking, or more talented, comparison is affirmation and confirmation.
Comparing-down affirms, but seems childish.
Permission of comparison:
Comparison makes compromise virtue.
I allow myself an inconsequential slang like, “Damn it,” because of the words I want to say – but don’t. You would thank me for saying, “Damn it,” if you knew what I could have said.
When I compare the words I want to say with the words I actually say, I’m doing pretty damn well.
Comparison gives you permission to make choices that offend. A small outburst is virtuous compared to the last time you blew up, for example.
Power of comparison:
Let people win when they compare themselves to you. Don’t pull them down.
It’s self-defeating for leaders to outshine everyone on the team.
When you let people shine, they’re eager to shine again.
If you must outshine people, do it quietly.
- Don’t tweak everything. Just go with.
- Welcome help and input with gratitude.
People enjoy contributing when you stop diminishing their contribution.
When is comparison a good thing? A bad thing?
I love the “Permission of Comparison” regarding self. It also allows for showing yourself growth and for dealing with future rough events. “Compared to who I was 30 years ago, I am wiser and kinder now, and more grateful. I worry less.” “Compared to some of the traumas I’ve endured, I feel I can get through most anything and I have better tools to cope with those times.” This is a thought provoking article. Thanks, Dan, and have a great Independence Day weekend.
Comparison to anything external should be reserved for processes not people. When we compare people it should be through the lens of where you were v. where you are today, or where you are today v. where you want to be in the future. The danger in comparison between people is the tendency to compare our own best traits to others faults so a true picture is never created.
Do yourself a favor and when using comparison as a tool for improvement concentrate on business processes or the evolution in character, skills and abilities within yourself or others. Both are more measurable.
Parents, teachers and caregivers need to be wary of comparing siblings. At least one is always likely to suffer and even the one who is being publicly praised may be cringing with both embarrassment and the knowledge that their peers will think less of them than the adults who may have forgotten about the impact of such comparisons. My aunt and uncle with whom I spent most of my school holidays with often lauded my quietness and politeness to my two cousins. Fortunately my cousins still loved me but it left a feeling of discomfort. As a teacher I worked hard to recognize the unique abilities of each of my students quietly but affirmatively. thanks for a thought provoking article as always. Positively, Pauline
I really appreciate your reminder to allow others to talk themselves up. One-upping or I-did-too comments in social situations just makes you look like a chaser versus a trail-blazer. You also get the bonus internal pat on the back that not only did you do well, but you allowed others to shine too. Letting others think they are doing it all and doing it well, lets them continue to improve and enjoy their role. Not “one-downing” and saying “I told you so” works great with my teenagers too — and instead of looking for apologies, we practice (me too!) saying “I’ll do better.”