Everyone wants to be appreciated at some point in their lives. At some point, everyone wants to be loved and encouraged every now and again. Flattery however is not the same as genuine praise. Not only is it counterproductive but its borderline insulting especially for the person being flattered upon. It is almost like lying or pretending to care.
Before I go on, I have to mention that not all flattery is bad. It is easy for introverts or those of us who are really shy, to be flattered by compliments. This form of flattery is likened to that of humility.
But how do you know if you’re flattering someone in a negative way or if someone is flattering you?
Flattery is known by what I like to call the Ultra-Orthodox Praise. This tends to really creep into my skin and tug at my nerve strings. The reason it’s so irritating is because it’s so fake. I’m sure I’m not the best thing since sliced bread. The Ultra-Orthodox Praiser however will lead you to believe otherwise. Likewise, you are not the best thing that has ever happened to me.
When someone has done something well tell them. Let them know they really touched you, how it made you feel and ways it has helped you to improve. Give credit where credit is due.
Don’t overdo it. Making something out to be above what it’s worth is flattery and it does not help the giver or the receiver. When you discern this kind of flattery in your midst, don’t let it go to your head. Let’s look at some examples:
“You are very pretty and I love that new hair cut!”
Even though the word “very” was used this is a genuine compliment. The person stated what they saw in the person and showed also that they noticed something new about them. It shows that they are interested and truthful in regard to their praise.
“You are very pretty and I love the new haircut! Where’d you get it done?”
This compliment is also a good one. In fact it is better than the last one. Not only did this person notice the new hair cut but they made it a point to also ask questions. This engages the other person and shows genuine interest.
“You are by far the most beautiful person in the world! I wish I could marry you today.”
This is flattery. Is this person really the most beautiful person in the world? This is extra and is not helpful. Suppose the woman did think she was the most beautiful person ever, this will help her to do nothing but think too highly of herself. She will be filled with pride and no one will be able to tell her anything. So you see flattery is really unnecessary.
Now this next example is kinda tricky:
“I think your poetry is better than Maya Angelou’s.”
Is this a genuine compliment or is it flattery?
This is a genuine compliment. It’s genuine because it’s one person’s opinion about someone else. Remember that flattery is characterized by over-exaggeration, not necessarily the mention of famous individuals. It is also important to note that this is someone’s opinion and it is addressed as such. “I think” informs us of the nature of the statement and lets us know it is an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Chances are the person really did think this poet’s work superseded Maya Angelou’s. It is their opinion. However, it is easy for this statement to have been one of flattery if the person went over the top with it:
“I think you should change your name to Maya Angelou since you’re such a great poet.
Though this is an opinion, it is also flattery. If the person really is a good poet, tell them but leave the extra stuff out. It only makes you look insincere and phony about what you’re saying unless it was understood that you were joking.
Why People Flatter
If you are in a situation where someone is flattering you, there are three possible reasons:
Believe it or not most people who are overtly zealous concerning certain individuals do not actually care for them, and their flattery is a cover. These people tend to over compensate to make it look like these people are their “besties,” but in reality they hope for their down fall. There is no reason to pretend or make someone out to be other than they are except if there are hidden motives.
Another result of flattery is pity. People are most likely to become victims of flattery by those who feel sorry for them in some way. If you’re attempting to build encouragement this is not the way to do it. People need to know the truth so that they can improve. You don’t have to be mean about it, but flattery is just as counterproductive.
3). They Want Something in Return
If someone is throwing unnecessary overtly zealous statements your way that are really over the top, another reason for this is that they want something from you. What they want can vary. Some people are so bad that they’ll do it just to get your attention.
How to React to Flattery
If you believe you are being flattered in negative ways just brush it off. Don’t be rude and try to jump down people’s throats for flattering you. However, don’t take it seriously. Flattery tends to be an over exaggerated form of an observation for the purpose of exacting pity, or trying to get your attention. It is sometimes based not off logic or genuine interest, but of hidden envy. Acknowledge it for what it is and keep it moving. Like the quote says, enjoy it. It may even be funny, may uplift you even but don’t swallow it. Remain humble. Mistaking flattery for truth can have its consequences. You can put yourself in the vulnerable position of being really hurt that someone was not honest with you. You will feel used and under appreciated. There is nothing like the real thing so never trade the truth for a moment of flattery. It hinders, it does not help.
If You’re a Flatterer
Sometimes we are just trying to be nice. But if you find yourself flattering a lot just keep it real with yourself always. You don’t have to over acknowledge someone, either their presence or talent, to make them feel special. If you are truly genuine they will know it and if they have good hearts they will appreciate it.
*Remember that genuine praise or excitement over someone or their work is not flattery.*
As seen in our examples, flattery tends to be over the top in unrealistic ways:
Finally, I have to bring up an important observation as it pertains to the blog world. Sometimes I get the feeling that there are certain instances where it appears differing perspectives are not welcomed in the blogosphere. Not from the comments I get since I have been fortunate to have genuine people leave their thoughts on the table and we have engaged in excellent conversations. However, while browsing the blogging world period (which doesn’t limit itself to WordPress), I do detect flattery in the comments area. Sometimes, not all the time. I know how important it is to be kind and I would never promote a debate (because its fruitless) but being nice and courteous doesn’t mean everyone will think the same or that everyone will be in agreement. That is not how it is in the real world. In fact, sometimes people may even get upset or agitated by a blog post. We need to understand that that’s OK as long as they maintain a level of self-control (no usage of profanity and angry outburst) because that’s real.
When giving commentary on someone’s blog make sure that you’re being real about it. Respect their blog as if walking into their home, but don’t make your comments so overlaid with flattery that it becomes fake.