We all know that having friends can be healthy for us, but rivals can help to boost performance in a big way. Being harshly criticized can cause you to lack in performance, but a new study shows that when people receive feedback that is discouraging, and then receive supportive words from friends, the negative feedback from rivals can actually make you do better – no matter what it is you’re doing.
In the study, 40 participants were blindfolded and played darts. There were then told that they did poorly, followed by feedback from people wearing college logo shirts – either from their alma mater, or a rival. According to the study, those that heard negative words from their rival followed up with encouragement from a “friend” both boosted their performance and their motivation. In essence, the competitor told participants that they did a terrible job, but then a person that was “trusted” had a “pep talk” with the participant. Despite many different combinations in feedback, this particular one was the only one that showed any improvement in performance.
While it’s unlikely that you will have to deal with someone talking trash to you, it’s likely that you have a rival in some aspect of life, but instead of letting them get the best of you, start seeing the benefits of having one:
- Rivals can get you “fired up.” No matter if you have a competitive friend, or a rival co-worker, it can be easy to become competitive. You don’t have to feel down when they give you negativity. Consider dealing with them a chance to challenge what they believe and best them. According to Andrea Bonior, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix, this type of rivalry can actually help you to outperform yourself. So, when your co-worker suggests you ask for help with a project, you can refocus your efforts and get the job done on your own. You’ll feel amazing, and she’ll likely look uncomfortable with your accomplishment at the very least.
- Rivals help us to see where we can do better. While it’s tempting to ignore rival criticisms, you might actually want to listen to what they say. In many cases, criticism is going to contain a bit of truth. While we usually want to shut out what is being said, rivals often have a legitimate point, and dismissing what they are saying can cost us the chance of growth. Take a better look at what’s being said to see if they might be telling the truth.
- Rivals can actually strengthen bonds. When you have a feeling of “us versus them,” you might actually helping to boost the bond in your group, team, or clique. Outsiders can help to increase loyalty to your chosen group, and having an “enemy” in common can help to create cohesiveness. Those that feel like they are committed to a common goal can help increase motivation and the ability to work with one another.
So, the next time you’re facing a rival, see it as a chance to encourage yourself to do better, work harder and perform better. You’ll never see your rival in the same way again.