Flattery Will Get You Everywhere! But do You Really Want to go Everywhere?

Does or doesn’t flattery get you anywhere?

I reckon the person who first said: “Flattery will get you nowhere”, was seemingly not exactly a psychological high flyer. Flattery is used openly and disguised in any form by marketing experts, political, religious leaders, company CEO’s, parents, teachers, lovers, well, generally by anybody who has an interest in manipulating you “the nice way”. Flattery always works. Why?

Flattery equals manipulation?

On a personal level the use of flattery is all too evident. People love to be praised, held in high-esteem, and have their egos stroked. We’ve all succumbed to this temptation at one time or another. But in the hands of someone who knows how to use this character flaw, it’s an open door for manipulation. So how can we recognise flattery and how can we react to it to turn it to our advantage?

Flattery, praise and encouragement

There is a big difference between genuine praise and encouragement and blatant flattery as used for example in marketing over and over again (you deserve this!) or by so-called leaders with hidden motives. And in an age and society where constant niggling and criticising seems to be the “standard” of, well, I wouldn’t want to call it “conversation” but rather a sort of one-sided “putting-down” of another person to make oneself feel good, flattery then becomes a good tool to manipulate people in need of praise and encouragement to follow false promises.

Is there a way out of this emotional jungle if we want to? Yes.

How to recognise praise

You DO know. If you’ve done something real good and somebody praises you for it, then that’s nice. We should genuinely praise others, even look for an opportunity to do so, if they’ve done something real good or real nice. Why not comment on it favourably indeed? It makes for a nice atmosphere and may even encourage the individual to do more and even better. No hidden motives here!

How to recognise encouragement

You DO know. If you are doing something right now or working on a project and maybe need some help or some extra tools or ideas, surely a word of encouragement is of great value now. Genuine encouragement always advances a project in a positive way.

How to recognise flattery

You DO know. If you haven’t done anything, don’t look your best right now or even messed up on a job, then there is no need for praise or encouragement and anybody praising you now is flattering you with a hidden motive, usually to do with you having to part with money.

Of course, we thank everybody with a smile for praise, encouragement and flattery, but we recognise the latter and be on our guard hiding the wallet and the cheque book.

One more thought on the subject

William Glasser, an internationally known psychiatrist who’s work introduced an idea called “control theory,” reinforced this concept of “feeling good” in his book “Stations of the Mind”. Quote:

“To control people successfully we have to guess what it is they desire (what their reference levels are) or in general what gives them pleasure (what causes them pain). Then, well aware of the ancient force of reward and punishment, all a good controller or operant conditioner has to do is to fine-tune his control so that it focuses on specifics. What causes the most pain or the most pleasure with the least effort to me? To be most effective, however, a good controller must discover how to apply these forces in such a way that does not cause conflict, that makes the controlled person happy to be controlled.” (p.144).

… and flattery does the job …

Just a thought to try out …

So yes, flattery will probably get you everywhere as people nowadays are so much in need of genuine praise and encouragement instead of constant criticism. But: It would be much nicer if you would use genuine praise and encouragement instead.

Related Links

The “Criticising Syndrome”


The automatic flatterer 😉

Thanks for calling in!

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