Whether it’s the friend who’s always coming home from a trip far better than the one you just took or your next-door neighbor whose surgery was ten times worse than yours, we all know a “Story Topper.” Sometimes, this game of one-upmanship can contribute to conversation, keeping things lively and fun. But let’s face it….no one likes to have their best anecdotes ruined by follow-up from a “been there, done-that” acquaintance. With holiday party season right around the corner, all of us will undoubtedly find ourselves in the presence of a Story Topper. (You may even be one yourself.) This week on the Today show, I shared some tips for how to react if this situation happens to you--and it will. For some additional strategies, read on....
Await a Better Audience
Save your best tales for the company of those you know will appreciate them and not attempt to one-up you.
Stand Up for Yourself
Don't be afraid to let the other party know you were not finished. Be polite, but be assertive; don't let your story be derailed.
Bring an Entourage
Thwart a perennial story topper by having a wingman along who will jump in and move the focus back to your tale.
Change the Subject
Shift the subject of conversation to something that doesn't (typically) involve anyone's personal experience (including your own). Current events are a good start.
Move on to someone interested in an actual give-and-take conversation. Rather than giving this needy story-topper any more attention, excuse yourself politely. Even if they don't get the hint, you'll be saving yourself from further annoyance.
Be Honest With Yourself
Are you droning on too long? Bragging? Could it be that the story topper is trying to put you in your rightful place? Maybe it’s time to trim your tale a bit.
The takeaway here is that the occasional story topping (done respectfully, of course) is a sign of connection being made over common interests and experiences. The key is to keep your motives pure—don’t hog the conversation, and don’t try to steal someone else’s thunder. Finally, remember that the most mannerly person of all is the one who has an even better story but who nonetheless saves it for another time, kindly allowing others to enjoy the spotlight.