When it comes to compliments and flattery, it’s easy to get the two confused. However, my latest podcast explores the difference between the two and makes a case for compliments.
When I was growing up, I loved to compliment others. And I still do today!
It’s always been easy for me to acknowledge and appreciate the many ways in which others shine. Doing so has uplifted my own spirits as well as those around me.
For purposes of this topic, I’d like to return to my high school days. At the time, I had some of my own talents. For example, I enjoyed singing in several choral groups, writing for the school paper and deciphering deep meanings and symbolism from novels we read in English class.
Similarly, I well remember students around me who excelled in their respective areas of interest and pursuit, too.
For starters, there were several students in particular who excelled in Biology and Chemistry and I frequently relied upon them to help me through science labs. I’d thank them for their generous assistance and point out how their alternative explanations often surpassed those of our teacher. If I’m not mistaken, a few went on to earn PhD’s in the sciences. It gives me joy to realize I’d accurately assessed and celebrated their special talents early on!
In gym class, where I probably ranked among the least coordinated, I respected and honored female athletes who were strong, confident and adept at sports. Not only would I acknowledge their skills, but I’d thank them for taking time and interest to deliver tips on how to return a volley or aim for a basket to the less physically inclined — like me.
Though my classes focused on traditional academics, I’d often remark at the surprising talents of fellow students in our art program. Often, I’d stop by the department to admire the work of friends. They displayed more than technical aptitude; their creative designs were often wonderfully colorful, uplifting my thoughts and inspiring my senses.
It was natural for me to compliment each of these people, to give them credit in genuine ways. Finding the best in others always made me feel happy.
Flattery might be a close cousin to a compliment, but it doesn’t always do us, or the deliverer, quite the same justice.
The biggest hiccup with flattery is the hidden hook. When we flatter, we’re not merely admiring or appreciating someone else; we’re looking to extract a little something for ourselves.
So while compliments are designed with a genuine motive, the same can’t always be said about flattery. We can flatter others to make them feel better or more special, but consider the following.
None of us have to look very far back to remember having been conned into something because we succumbed to flattery. We’ve all fallen prey to the clever manipulations of someone else’s words or intentions in the process. We’ve made purchases we really didn’t need, accepted invitations we would have otherwise declined, and caved in to many other subtleties delivered through the flattering tongue.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve also been on the opposite side of flattery. We’ve been conveyors of flattery when doing so suited our intended hopes, expectations and even personal whims.
I like the well-grounded advice from Hank Ketcham, creator of the Dennis the Menace cartoon character. He muses wisely, but with a smile, “Flattery is like chewing gum. Enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.”
In my latest podcast, I take up compliments and flattery in a bit more detail.
Like everything else I do, it’s a reminder for us to aim toward the authentic. As we do, we discover more of our own happiness, peace and confidence and make our world a bit brighter along the way!
Listen here or click below for Podcast 150: Compliments or Flattery?
Maura is an International Speaker on Leadership, Influence and Emotional Intelligence
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