Social Comparison Thinking

Chad Wakefield
2 min readOct 12, 2021


Collaboration is all about an elastic outlook. Stretching. It’s a revered and sought after mindset. Desired approach. It’s what most of us proclaim we believe in and do. We signal that we work collaboratively.

But are most adults, and even our kids as they approach their teenage years, really disposed to this type of approach for navigating the world and working towards whatever achievement we seek?

Or are we more disposed to Social Comparison thinking?

Social Comparison thinking is Zero Sum. One loses and the other wins. It’s a “better than”, winner take all type of outlook.

We compare ourselves, our achievements, and our ability to reach an outcome to our neighbor (when I was in grade school the teachers always called the other student our neighbor versus our friend, colleague, mate…a term of adjacency versus togetherness).

It leads, I think to us hoarding our best ideas and even selves, to ourselves until we can identify the high bidder for the thing we are bringing. It’s a protectionist and even isolationist outlook and mood of operation. Fear is central to it.

In true collaboration, you’re an open book. It’s all out on the table. Free. Your ideas, willingness to take on pieces of work no matter how glamorous (or dirty and grubby), and willingness to subordinate some of the accolades to others.

There’s a spirit to collaboration that shouts we will take a piece of something (without an assessment of price to us) to be part of something. We aren’t necessarily valuing it in a manner that yields what we think is the most for us. We aren’t worried if someone gets what’s perceived as more.

Social Comparison though, is all about price to us relative to others. We get more, we did better. We get less, we did worse. It totally discounts and renders the experience and the progressive benefit we would get in collaboration, worthless.