Beware: There are small talk criminals lurking everywhere. The coffee shop, your kids’ school, the gym, the office, the dinner party. These brazen bullies strike quickly and without warning – and they don’t care who they hurt. My ongoing series, Talk Tyrants, serves two purposes: it allows you the chance to escape the attack of such a villainous creature and it guarantees that you will never fall into a life of small talk crime. Here we go:
The One-Upper lies in wait, quietly waiting for his prey to make one false move and then WHAM! Death is immediate. One-Uppers are not the first to brag, but be forewarned, they always get the last word. The scariest part about The One-Upper is that they don’t realize they are leading a life of small talk crime. Sadly, Mr. One-Upper is Darwin-like in his ideals, believing that he is helping both his prey and the population as a whole by killing off those he perceives as weak.
How to Spot The One-Upper:
- Asks another person a seemingly common question (as a way to get his own story out there): Ann! How was your trip to Alaska?
- Immediately launches into his own narrative: Wow, sounds great – we actually just returned from Africa. AFRICA. It was simply amazing. A-MAZ-ING. I rode an elephant. I led a safari. I helped Angelina and Brad with their adoption. I taught the natives how to line dance! Yep. True story. Now, Ann’s quaint soiree to the great and glorious Alaska is on ice.
- If, by some miracle, Ann does manage to edge in another tidbit about her travels, The One-Upper swiftly turns it back on them: Lovely, Ann! A puddle jumper to an iceberg? Phooey. I was on a private jet touring the coast of South Africa. Uh huh. PRIVATE jet. Yeah, and I got to fly it. While drinking champagne. And holding a monkey on my lap. And speaking Swahili. Yep. True story.
How to Deal with The One-Upper:
- Smile, nod, and gently but firmly continue your story: As I was saying, Alaska…
- Smile, nod, and gently place your hand the small talk criminal’s arm as a way to break their narcissistic rant: Sam, this is actually my story.
- Smile, nod, and gently excuse yourself: John, it was so good to see you. Sounds like Sam is anxious to share his story about Africa. Excuse me while I refill my wine. I’d love to share more about my trip to Alaska if you have time later. Good to see you both!
Try not to take The One-Upper’s one-upping personally, which should be easy considering they seem so comfortable not recognizing the person standing in front of them. Wondering if you are The One-Upper? If you find yourself using the phrase “Been there,done that”, or missing someone’s story because you can’t wait to tell your own, since it is similar, just way better, then may I humbly suggest reading The Fine Art of Small Talk? I know the author. Yep. True story.
Stay tuned for the next installment: The Monopolizer