How To Use Flattery to Influence People

Business Flattery

We are all familiar with the warm, pleasant feeling that comes with receiving a genuine compliment. When someone recognises something about us that deserves to be praised it makes us feel good about ourselves and it gives us that much-needed burst of confidence.

For the most part, we can tell the difference between a genuine compliment and one that is somewhat less sincere; and if we recognise the insincerity of a compliment, we won’t to respond to it positively—right?

Compliments can serve a strategic purpose, but are they effective if they are not based in sincerity? 

The Power of Simple Flattery

Even when we recognise the dishonesty of a compliment and we don’t believe it, we have a positive reaction to it. (tweet this)

This fact of human nature is one with clear business implications. To flatter a customer, staff or client is to ensure that they have positive feelings associated with you and your business.

Let’s say, for example, that a salesperson compliments a customer that is looking at a piece of clothing. The salesperson says that the customer has an eye for great fashion and that the piece of clothing would look amazing on them.

The customer is in the store. They know that the salesperson is just trying to sell them the item, but the act of flattery makes us all feel special. We all want to hear that we’re good at something even if there is a hint of insincerity.

There is a lesson here that can be applied to your work. Genuine, heart-felt compliments will almost always have a positive impact. But flattery that isn’t one hundred percent genuine also has the ability to work.

When Flattery Is Not the Best Idea

While flattery can be effective in creating a positive impression in the eyes of a customer or client, it can have negative effects when used in other circumstances.

For instance, when flattery is used overtly with your boss, or someone higher up the corporate ladder, it can come across as being insincere to get ahead in your job, and that may backfire on you. It’s about choosing when and where to use flattery that makes the difference.

Some Useful Tips For Successful Flattery

In the business world, flattery is tricky. Some executives that are used to being flattered are immune to its effects.

One strategy is to frame your compliments in such a way as to suggest that you understand it is coming across as flattery, and that isn’t your intention. Beginning the compliment with such phrases as “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but…” both makes it clear that you recognise what you are doing as flattery—thus eliminating a layer of insincerity—while also raising yourself above such ulterior motives that are often associated with flattery in the business world.

Also try to use subtle flattery in where others are around to hear. People feel the effects of flattery more if others are around. Don’t be too obvious because the others might not find it amusing, but subtle hints of flattery toward a person when others are around can make them feel special. (tweet this)

Finally, try not to seem as if you are so eager to flatter. If you are bursting with compliments, they will come across as insincere. If you dispense them with seeming reluctance— e.g. arguing for a while before conceding that the other person’s point is better—makes them feel less as though they’re being flattered and more as if they have in fact earned the compliment.

So what does it all mean?

Flattery can be a valuable business tool when you know how to use it right. It has the potential to not only make people feel good about themselves but to make them feel good about your, your business, your product or service.

Flattery should be tasteful, however, because the more over-the-top it is, the more it runs the risk of backfiring. People do have subconscious positive reactions to compliments including those that are impersonal and insincere. However, when done with the clear purpose of advancing one’s own interests, flattery creates a negative impression.

Business is all about human interactions. The more positive you can make these interactions, the more successful you are going to be. By recognising human nature’s inherent desire to be flattered, by recognising the subconscious willingness we all have to believe the value of a compliment directed at us, you can use flattery to your advantage in your day-to-day business interactions.

By the way, I like that top you’re wearing.

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  • Marion Drazil

    Thank You for your many interesting blogs and articles.

    To ensure that flattery is not just an empty gesture, I find that looking
    for something flattering or positive to say to someone is an easy
    process, it is merely looking for something that you genuinely find
    interesting or feel positive about, and then make a comment such as
    “what a wonderful smile you have”, “love the colour you have selected
    for your business,” “Thank you for the great information you must have
    done a lot of research on the topic” ” Heard you had a trot of bad luck
    but you look as though you have come through it okay” etc.

    No one single person is has all faults, there is always something to flatter them about, you will then not have to fear sounding insincere.

    Marion Drazil
    W.I.N. Mastermind Groups

    • Darren Fleming

      Great points Marion. People will see right through flattery that is just said hoping to gain advantage. You’re right – every person has something to compliment them on. It is a matter of looking for and finding it. Most people just don’t want to look for it.

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