Flattery is an insidious and dangerous foe. It works best when it is aimed at our blind spots. We can all recognise flattery when it addressed to areas where we are relatively self-aware and know our failings.
I know that I pass as “plain” on a good day, while on a bad day people might cross the street to keep out of my way. I can even shock myself were I to I catch an unexpected glimpse of my own reflection. I am fine when I have posed my expression and stance and readied and told myself what to expect when I look in the mirror. Using words such as mature, wise, sage and other adjectives – words that are rarely used on dating sites. The shock comes when I don’t expect it and I catch a glance of this old dolt in the mirror. Good grief .. .. stomach in .. .. stand upright .. .. back to the sage expression .. .. that’s better .. .. shock over .. .. phew,
So, for example, flattery over my appearance rarely works. I am wise in this area. When young attractive women passed positive comments on my appearance, or style, in the hotel bar when I was abroad at conferences I knew this was flattery. I knew they were ‘at work’ and my allure was my credit card rather than my resemblance to a young Adonis. When shopkeepers praise my fine taste and ability to be ahead of the fashion curve, I know I am being soft soaped and that my wallet is being gently opened. Similarly when the negotiator praises my acumen and perception I know I am missing something from the deal.
Flattery is dangerous, however, when it is applied to areas where one has a degree of confidence. We are more likely to believe the sycophant when we already have a high opinion of ourself. Vanity is the obvious patsy for flattery. It is this form of flattery that is so successful in financial scams. The “I can see that you are an astute investor…” or “You are somebody that obviously likes to be ahead of the crowd” are common opening lines of financial scams. But this problem can rear its head elsewhere also.
When I was much younger and working as a doctor I would often see patients referred after failed treatment or dissatisfaction with other doctors. Sometimes this was part of a much bigger issue, when the doctor-patient relationship was, itself, part of the problem. I was often proud to be called on to give my opinion or to try and assist when others had failed.
These consultations would often start with a very flattering opening gambit …
“Oh My Dr. X, you are so much more understanding than that Dr Y I used to see ! I can see that you are much nicer and I can tell you things I never could with them. I am sure you will be able to help me.”
I grew to be able to recognise this dangerous opening for the flattery it is though when young I sometimes missed it. When I failed to see this flattery, and I was blinded by my own vanity, I unfortunately could reply along the lines of …
“Oh thank you Mr Y. You are so uncommonly perceptive”
Having fallen for the flattery and, worse, having given flattery in return we were both trapped in a relationship which was never fruitful, nor helpful, for either of us. Flattery had lead us to positions which were not tenable.
Flattery, a dangerous foe, especially when you think that you are on safe ground.
Trying to follow the daily prompt : Flattery