YOU might be tempted to say: "What's wrong with a little competition?"

Nothing is wrong with it. It is healthy. It is when your need to compete and be superior to someone else gets in the way of the best possible outcome for both of you. That is when competition becomes a liability. I'm talking about the kind of person who always needs to be "one up" on other people.

People who live their life in competition with everyone - and we all know people like that - might get admired for their achievements, but they do not get the freely given attention and support of others.

People who exude the message: "I'm smarter, or prettier, or richer, or more committed than you are" do not garner people's trust. That's because the message is clearly about "Me first".

A willingness to be flexible means that, occasionally, you are not number one. You may need to take a backseat to a colleague who is trying something innovative. It may mean that you will need to compromise in a negotiation. Maybe the fact that you are the best salesperson of the month every month prevents other people from even trying.

Does your level of competitiveness get in the way of relationships? If you play a one-on-one sport such as tennis or racquetball, do you always play to beat the other person? If you play board games or video games with your children, is it more important to win than to have fun?

On the one hand, it seems as though we are being pushed to be more competitive. Many of us work for companies that are in fierce marketing battles with global competitors. There are fewer tax dollars to go around; fewer jobs in many industries. Yet, the paradox is that the solutions we are finding to those problems involve not more competition, but more collaboration.

I just have one tip for you if you have a streak of competitiveness that gets in the way of your relationships - stop seeing the other person as an opponent.

Reframe the relationship as a mentoring one, or as a friendship, or a chance to do something together that neither of you could do alone.

Look directly into that person's eyes and see a fellow human being who does not want to be beaten or made into a loser any more than you do. People who are always out to win may collect a lot of marbles, but they lose a lot of friends. And I would trade a bag of marbles for a good friend any day.