The Scorekeeper Always Wins

I want to address scorekeeping and why the scorekeeper always wins. I’m not talking about the mom or dad who volunteers to handle the scoreboard at their child’s soccer game. Or the person at a professional sporting event whose job it is to keep the scoreboard accurate. I’m talking about the person in relationships who keeps score.

Perhaps you are the scorekeeper.

Scorekeeping can happen in any type of relationship, among friends, in your personal life, or in your work environment. The person who compares what someone is doing or not doing against what they are doing is the scorekeeper. And the scorekeeper always wins.

Suspended reality

The scorekeeper is hard to be around when in scorekeeping mode because whether we know it or not, this person has some kind of vendetta against the person they are focused on.  As a result, the scorekeeper is not accurately viewing the world. The scorekeeper is living in a world they created to justify their agenda. Their world inaccurately represents reality and unfairly sees themselves as doing most things right, while the person they are keeping score of is seen as doing most things wrong.

This doesn’t sound like a fun game.

Why the Scorekeeper Always Wins

The scorekeeper is keeping score for a reason, and because of that, the scorekeeper always wins.

The reason why they always win is because the scorekeeper does not score fairly.

Once we or someone in our life switches into scorekeeper mode, the focus is now on trying to prove a point. You’re not doing as much as they are doing, or you’re not doing as many good things as they are.

If you pay attention to the scorekeeper’s scorecard, you will notice they are keeping score of all the negative things you do versus all of the positive things they do.

We See What We Want to See

It’s true we catch more of the things we are focused on seeing. We see the things we want to see, especially when we are trying to justify an agenda. For the scorekeeper, things that were less noticeable before are now common occurrences. Things that didn’t matter before are now significant.

The scorekeeper is trying to prove something, and they need a solid number behind them to support their argument.

But the scorekeeper’s number is not solid.

Because the scorekeeper is not keeping accurate score, or they are stacking the deck.

And if it’s toxic enough, the scorekeeper will go out of their way to look for things to add to their scorecard. The scorekeeper might even stoop so low as to exaggerate or invent circumstances. They sometimes turn situations that haven’t been a big deal in the past into serious issues now.

We all Have a Different Score Card

Let’s face it, we each have different things that are important to us. We are trying to share this world and this life with other people, each with different wants and needs. We would all keep different scorecards with our own set of criteria if we were all scorekeepers.

If we were all keeping score, I’m sure we’d be biased in our scorekeeping—better scores for ourselves and those we love than people we don’t really know or like.

We all see things differently, and what’s important to one person might not be to another.

The Important Takeaway

I think that’s an important takeaway. What’s important to one person might not be to the other.

That statement right there might be precisely why the scorekeeper starts keeping score.

And why the scorekeeper always wins.

The Emotions in Scorekeeping

Sometimes there’s so much anger and resentment built up that the tallies on the scorecard start to encompass anything and everything. It now becomes about tracking all the times you are messing up compared to all the times the scorekeeper excels.

Sometimes it is unclear to all involved why the scorekeeper started keeping score – at least initially. Regardless of why the scorekeeper started keeping score, they did. And now the unraveling of the relationship begins, it will continue to unravel until the reason for the scorekeeping is resolved and the scorekeeping stops, or until the relationship is destroyed.

Let’s examine some of the reasons why a scorekeeper would begin keeping score.

  1. They feel they’re being taken advantage of.
  2. They don’t feel they are heard.
  3. The responsibilities of whatever it is they are keeping score of are not divided evenly, and they’re feeling the weight of it.
  4. They are angry and resentful towards you, and this is the way it’s manifesting itself.
  5. They feel hurting or insulting you is how they can get your attention or a reaction out of you.

Was it a Precedent?

Another point to consider in the scorekeeping world is, did the scorekeeper set a precedent they no longer want to continue?

Maybe the scorekeeper always holds book club or poker night because they like being the host and like this event being in their home. One day, they realized they are spending money on food and drinks, and they are the ones cleaning up.

Slowly the precedent the scorekeeper set turns into resentment and they start keeping score. The scorekeeper will compare what they put into these events to what their friends or family members give them of “equal value.” In their mind, this scorekeeping is helping them justify their resentment.

It would be so much easier to have a conversation, ask if they can start rotating houses, ask people to pitch in on food and drinks, ask the guests to stay after a little while to help clean.

A conversation would be a much better way to alleviate resentment.

Perhaps the scorekeeper feels the guests should notice on their own, and they shouldn’t have to bring it up. Or maybe the scorekeeper is worried people will not like them if they brought this up. So instead, they quietly keep score and build up resentment.

Meanwhile, in some cases, the people or person they are keeping score against don’t even know there is an issue.

Where do we go from here?

You need to ask yourself, are you the scorekeeper?

Why you need to stop:

  1. It doesn’t accomplish anything – you are doing more harm than good.
  2. The other person is “in trouble,” and they aren’t even aware they are doing anything “wrong.”
  3. It keeps you focused (and looking for) negative things in your life and your relationships.
  4. Life is not about being petty, and keeping score keeps you focused on insignificant things. You are also not addressing and resolving the real issue.
  5. You are making the person you are keeping score of your opponent and not your ally.

Scorekeeping only shines a light on the things the scorekeeper wants it to illuminate; the other person’s negative contributions and the scorekeeper’s positive contributions.

How to Stop Someone from Keeping Score Against You

If you are aware of someone in your life keeping score, the quickest way to get them to stop is to understand why they’re keeping score. See if you can recognize what is important to them and how your actions might not align with their expectations.

Can you see how you might be contributing to their need to keep score? When you understand a person and their expectations, it is easier to see how their feelings can be hurt when you don’t meet their expectations.

Sometimes this is not as easy as it sounds. There are times we are unaware of the scorecard against us, and we are going along living our life, not realizing our mere existence and the way we live our life is causing someone anger and resentment.

Or, perhaps we are aware, but they aren’t ready to admit it. If this is the case, this is on the scorekeeper, and you cannot take their actions personally until they communicate with you how what you are doing is hurting them.

How We Got Here

It’s usually not just one thing that has caused the scorekeeper to start keeping score. It’s a combination of a lot of things, and scorekeeping somehow comforts them.  At least temporarily. If they don’t quickly come to terms with why they are keeping score and don’t communicate their needs effectively, this will destroy relationships.

How to Stop Keeping Score

When a scorekeeper can see things differently, they will stop damaging relationships with this behavior. Here are a few mindset shifts that can help eliminate the destructive scorekeeping:

  1. Realize if other people were also keeping score, you would not be the one coming out on top of their scoreboard because these types of scorecards are a matter of perspective.
  2. Recognize that regardless of what type of relationship you are in, there are so many factors at play, and scorekeeping takes situations out of context and focuses on the single element that supports your negative agenda.
  3. Acknowledge that people and their feelings are more important than what they do or don’t do and recognize chances are this person is not being malicious in their behavior.
  4. Have a conversation with the people you feel compelled to keep score of and address the root cause of your resentment. They might not even realize what is going on because the thing you are scoring is not important to them. You need to communicate your wants and needs especially if something is essential to you.
  5. Relationships are not competitive events. Scorekeeping never helps make a relationship stronger.

How to make a shift

Take the time to think about your scorekeeping. Once you realize it is petty and unfounded, you need to change your mindset and see that person for who they really are and the good things they bring to the relationship. If you feel you are being taken advantage of and your scorekeeping is justified, then you need to have a conversation and express your concerns and expectations with that person. They might not even realize how you feel and will appreciate you bringing it to their attention so they can change.

  1. Pay more attention to your contribution to the issues in the relationship.
  2. When you make changes, the people around you will also make changes.
  3. Clearly and concisely communicate your wants and needs, so expectations are set.
  4. Understand why you are trying to cause destruction to this relationship and fix it or end the friendship or relationship.
  5. Remind yourself what you like about this person and see them for the whole person they are.

Recognizing Our Differences

I recently heard a phrase that goes something like this: “stop only seeing the good in people because then you might not see them for who they really are.” I think scorekeeping does the opposite. It keeps you focused on the negative in people – negative traits we all have – and you lose sight of the good things that person has to offer.  

I think the opposite can be said, “if you only see the negative (perceived negative) in people, you miss seeing them for who they really are.”

Wrapping it up

If you are a scorekeeper, take some time to reflect on yourself. Why are you keeping score? What can you do differently to change your behavior? Why are you keeping score instead of speaking up and telling people your wants and needs?

The scorekeeper always wins because the scorekeeper is keeping score to support their agenda.

In the end, the scorekeeper doesn’t really win anything.

In a lot of cases, they actually end up losing.

 If you are the scorekeeper, you need to focus on why you are keeping score and work on implementing more effective communication methods.

If you are the one who the scorecard is attacking, you need to discuss what is causing them to keep score and work together to create an environment where no one is keeping score.

As always, if the situation doesn’t change, you need to decide if this relationship is a healthy one or a toxic one.

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