It’s everywhere. We see it when people try to be nice to each other and we experience it when someone tries to sell us something. It’s flattery. If you’re like me, you may have grown up thinking of it as a good thing, which captured the gist of the saying, “Well, flattery won’t get you anywhere,” or was it “everywhere”? We may have made joking comments about it, but subconsciously we saw it and knew it wasn’t right. The point is that we often don’t see the problem with that; we do not see it for ‘what’ it really is.

Flattery (or in various ways obsequiousness) is negligible because it is given to upset. This is “excessive praise for self-interest.” Or put another way; It is the act of giving excessive compliments, usually for the purpose of ingratiating yourself with the subject.[1] Generally connotes insincerity. It’s a disappointment to get what the sycophant wants.

Dale Carnegie once said, “Flattery is telling another person exactly what you think of themselves.” And the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said: “Flattery is like friendship in appearance, but not in fruit.” It is hollow, false and harmful.

The opposite of flattery is communicating sincerely, without fail. It is communication motivated only by real need, and praise is given only when warranted. I wouldn’t deliver praise for any other reason, and definitely not for personal gain. Being obsequious is not just the transmission of soft or sweet words; it is really the broad intent of selfishness and lack of character that drives it.

Vanity (a form of the cardinal sin, pride) is the reason we fall for flattery, sometimes want believe the ‘excessive compliments’ we receive, unconsciously pretending that they are true. Right now, the truth doesn’t matter so much, after all, lying makes us feel so good, and if one person can say it, well, it might be true enough for them to believe it too, then why not? others? Do we see any denial here?

Vanity is a trap, pure and simple. Pride goes before destruction as the old proverb puts it. People who accept flattery when it is given show their soft spot for it and are the most susceptible to it in the future. The person who behaves foolishly enough to flatter will find vain people constantly clinging to them. Birds of the same feather stick together, as the popular saying goes.

Flattery is deceitful and a prelude to deceit. One of the most important Christian prophecies.[2] about the end times he mentions that ‘flattery will corrupt’ those who are corruptible. This is not a good place to be. Not falling into the trap but standing firm is wise.

We must be careful with false praise. There is probably more happening to you than you think. Take a moment to think about those who are trying to earn your esteem; wanting to get into your good books. If they are trying to you, be careful; be on your guard as they lie to get something from you or others that they can’t get, or don’t bother to get, legitimately. Sweetness is a cover for someone’s true intent.

flattery (another word for it’s) is a favorite behavior of the ‘proverbial fool.’ They treat others how they want to be treated. They can’t think or speak the truth, so the best that comes out of their mouths is a ‘nice lie’. Pleasant lies, however, have the nature of being wrong, and in truth they are no more pleasant than a terrible lie.

What can we learn from people who flatter us? Or perhaps we recognize within ourselves the propensity for this type of behavior? The most likely places you might find yourself engaging in this behavior are at work or in social scenes where you might feel the need to ‘brown-nose’. No matter what your gut tells you, it’s never a good idea to engage in this behavior.

we have to be authentic Y sincere in our compliment behavior. We have to be specific, timely and fair.

  • There’s not much point in telling someone, “You look great” or “Great job!” If you’re serious, it’s much better to be more informative about what it is exactly what provoked such a response in you. What exactly did you like about his appearance or performance? Be articulate.
  • Whenever you can, make sure to congratulate people from your heart, as sincerely as you can, and try to do it right away; don’t think, “I’ll do it later”, have the courage to do it now. Good intentions rarely fail.
  • Finally, make sure it’s fair and appropriate. Any time you feel drawn to complimenting someone, perhaps a superior at work or in a club you belong to, stop and have the courage to hold back and not give ‘excessive praise’. The nice person you compliment will see it all in any case, so keep it genuine.
  • © Steve J. Wickham, 2008. All rights reserved worldwide.


    [2] See Daniel 11:32.

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