LSI 1 Series: Competitive

Lorraine McCarthy, Counsellor/Coach, Human Synergistics Australia

Someone who describes themselves as moderate to high on Competitive Style ‘likes to be seen and noticed’. Often this desire is largely unconscious but it provides a strong motivating force and constant energy to maintain.

Some of the Styles items give us an idea of how much energy: ‘tries to maintain a sense of superiority’, ‘tries hard to impress others’, tries to be too successful’. So much trying! It is this high energy output required in the Competitive Style that is the biggest cost to us.

The internal dialogue or self-talk underpinning the Competitive Style is exhausting: ‘always has to be right’, ‘constantly comparing self to others’, ‘expects to be admired by others’. These expectations of self put massive pressure on us. It is easy to see how the effect of such pressures could contribute to our being described in the following terms: ‘makes snap judgments’, ‘overestimates ability’, ‘inclined to be reckless’, ‘boastful’ ‘builds self up’. It is all so counterproductive.

When an extension in Competitive Style is matched with a similar extension in Approval, which lies opposite on the Circumplex constituting a bowtie, the pressure we put on ourselves to be liked and admired by others is huge.

The item most highly correlated with low effectiveness is ‘thinks only of self’. Sadly the ‘self’ being thought about here is one of extrinsic value only, needing to do or prove something in order to be worthwhile. There is no space for just being, knowing and loving our innate qualities and intrinsic value. The item ‘egotistical’ sums this up. We place value on our manufactured self rather than our true self.

Of the four Aggressive Defensive Styles, Competitive is the one I have known least well. I might have struggled to have any leftover energy after my efforts in the other three! I try to be aware of it and how others might experience it. The item ‘self-assertive’, the one least correlated to low effectiveness, is one that interests me. To be assertive is important in that we are likely to speak up and offer our creative ideas rather than stay quiet and not do so. ‘Self-assertive’ is quite different in that we put ourselves into a situation, making it about us, not the subject at hand, the goal to be achieved or the others around us. For me it is about reminding myself to listen when someone is speaking to me, to stay with them rather than rushing in to tell my story.

If we describe ourselves as ‘likes to compete’ and ‘having a strong need to win’, our efforts result in someone else losing. There is nothing Constructive about this, either in relation to task or people. To describe ourselves as ‘gets upset over losing’ is somewhat sad. This must be very stressful. Why would we put such a heavy burden on ourselves?

The value of being Competitive is often espoused in relation to organisations, this is not the same as Competitive in the LSI 1. Organisations will be competitive, as in being well placed to compete in the market place, if they are Constructive. Internal competition is potentially destructive and at best only achieves short term success.

Our relationship with ourselves in Competitive Style is not close. We coerce ourselves to be a certain way and ignore our innate value. We expend huge energy in our efforts to be seen. The cost is massive. No space at all for peace and joy in our lives.


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