In Praise of Flattery

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May 31, 2016


As the legendary actress and comedian Mae West once said, “Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Illustrating that point, TIME magazine’s Richard Stengel penned a powerful piece on public flattery. Stengel writes, “Small flatteries are part of the mortar that holds society together. It is one of the little, daily rituals that keep civil society civil.

“It’s really just a mutually rewarding exchange, which is all that flattery is,” he goes on. “I flatter you; you say thank you; we both feel better about ourselves. It’s a transaction in which both parties come out ahead.

“Ultimately,” Stengel says, “I think there is not an overabundance of praise in our society but a dearth of it…Given the choice of living in a world without praise or one with too much, I would unhesitatingly choose the latter.”

Stengel goes on to offer a few rules on how to flatter successfully:

*Praise the beautiful for their intelligence, and the intelligent for their beauty. This was Casanova’s credo, and it is the silver bullet of seduction.

*Find something you really do like about the person. If you’re a bit squeamish about making up things, figure out something you actually do admire and praise it to the skies.

*Never offer a compliment and ask a favor at the same time. When you charge for praise, you make the receiver wary.

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