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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 24-Apr-16


Sunday 24-March-16

How do you deal with someone who has a superiority complex?

I sometimes respond to questions on Quora, in which I try to encourage people to be positive and thoughtful. Here's one I wrote recently on the question of how to handle people who always seem to act in a superior way, as if they are better than you and you are inferior. It's an annoying situation that we all face, some on a daily basis.

First watch them. Do they act superior with everyone, or mostly you? If the latter, then look for things you do that unintentionally encourages them. For example do you feel inferior at any level? You can also ask a trusted friend who can see both of you in action.

Also think: what exactly do they do that bothers me? Why does it bother me? Really why.

The above may offer you a way to change how you react to them that helps you feel better.

You can also try to understand what is driving them to act this way. It may be a reaction to them feeling inferior and over-compensating. If you can get a better handle on how they are thinking and feeling, you will have a far better chance of managing the situation.

Much human behaviour is based in the desire for status. You can see it in many everyday conversations and the way we try to impress people and get their approval. You also see it in the way people try to push others down so they can (relatively) rise. This can lead to status battles, where the real issue is not about business and not about respect. The pattern is often win-lose. At best both people get a little out of most encounters. At worst it is lose-lose.

Try to step away from status and win-lose thinking. Try moving the conversation and situation towards win-win. They will often resist this as they see you winning as them losing. Persist with adult, peer interactions (not parent-child) with them. Be authentic. Be patient. Avoid being negative.

You can fight back, but only do so when you have given the positive approach a good go. Only do so when you are ready. Do not pick a fight you will lose. Aim for short, sharp responses that will make them think hard about what they are doing (and give them time to do this).

In the end, if they cannot move from their superiority position and insist on taking more than they give, then go elsewhere. If they are friends, dump them. If they are people at work, move to another position or get another job elsewhere.

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