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Techniques General persuasion > Ingratiation > Flattery

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Flattery builds the other person's sense of identity by complimenting them.

Compliments can be about:

  • How they appear: 'You're looking slim and fit.'
  • What they say: 'What a great idea.'
  • What they do: 'Did you make this? It's amazing!'

When you flatter, be genuine. If you say you are amazed, be amazed and sound like you are amazed. Do not exaggerate as this looks false.

You can also flatter people indirectly by praising them to other people such as their boss or colleagues. When you do this, try to ensure they find out about it.

Pay attention to the effects of flattery as it does not work with some people. Watch for smiles and boosted pride to show that your flattery has worked.


As usual, that was a great meal.

Thanks! You're always kind so I know you'll help me here.


Flattery works because it acts to boost the person's sense of identity, suggesting they feel good about themselves in reflection of the admiration of the flatterer.

Flattery can be honest. It often, however, is an exaggeration, and can be patently untrue. The more obvious lies often work because they make the other person feel good so they choose to join in the lie rather than challenging it with the unflattering truth.

Indirect flattery can be particularly powerful as praising them to others gains a wider audience of appreciation for them. It also helps if they have greater respect for those other people. We like to be liked, and we especially like to be liked by those we hold in high regard.

Flattery can be longer-term, building up their self-image over time and thereby making your presence desirable and your statements valued. It can also be short-term, with the persuasion directly linked to the flattery.

Flattery is also useful for avoiding objections. If you tell a person they are good at something, then they will likely to adopt this into their sense of identity. And having done so, will feel unable to refute the subject. Mystics do this when they say 'I can see you have psychic ability yourself'.

Flattery does not work on some people because:

  • Some are so modest that flattery embarrasses them to the point that they do not enjoy it.
  • Some have a low self-image and flattery feels like lies.
  • Some are suspicious and flattery is so common they do not believe it.

You can overcome suspicion about flattery by being relatively low-key about it, keeping it brief while still showing you are impressed by them.

See also

Identity, Personal Validation Fallacy

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