Flattery – a Subtle Art of Deception

“Flattery is refined deception–it is the froth of language–it is the alcohol of social intercourse–it is the prescription of the subtle–and the nectar of fools.”   William Scott Downey

A flatterer is a person who often insincerely lavishes praise and compliments upon another person for a personal gain. Sometimes the flatterer is referred to as a brown-noser, bootlicker, yes-man, and suck-up. A flattering remark enlarges as it is an inflated expansion of praise. A person would not question such exalted words because it sounds and feels so good. On occasion, a client will tell me about wonderful words that were said to them that really inflated their sense of self as it also gave them pleasure like biting into a sweet, juicy, and delicious ripe peach. They will ask themselves the question can this person really mean what they said to me. The question that they ask themselves over and over again, “is it true”

Some people use praise to get their way or what they want by lavishing superlatives and flowery words upon another because it calls up an actual emotion in the other. Many people will eat that up like fertilizing compost that nourishes as well as sustains them. It reinforces their good feelings about themselves. As a manipulating tool it is a dissembler. Flattering adulation can veil the emotional manipulation. Such praise, admiration, and exaltations can cause a bewilderment and confusion in an individual. It might soften and disguise ones real perception about what has been said. It acts as a smoke screen by clouding the flatterer’s real intention. Then one is easily and craftily manipulated.

Both men and women can experience a particular sweet talker who expresses such smooth talking lines as if they are poured over them like a thick scrumptious gravy. In her song Strong Enough Sheryl Crow sings about flattery as a lie. These lyrics convey the emotional feeling that is generated by flattery.

Are you strong enough to be my man

Lie to me, I promise I’ll believe

Lie to me, but please don’t leave

I have a face I cannot show

I make the rules up as I go

Just try and love me if you can

The following fable clearly shows the use of flattery as a “dissembler.” It is a dissembler because it is a specific type of bending and stretching of a truth that a person would not doubt or have a reservation about, let alone question. Flattery can cause one to lose something of value.

The Fox and the Crow

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree.

“That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.

“Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.”

The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.

“That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: “Do not trust flatterers.” ─ Aesop

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” ─ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

© Ozimkiewicz


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