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9 Examples of Flattery

Flattery is insincere praise. This is often done to influence others but has many variations. Flattery is often labeled as bad but there are grey areas where it is polite and kind. The following are illustrative examples of flattery.


Flattery can be genuinely charming when the receiver understands that the flattery is probably insincere such that it is recognized as a pleasantry as opposed to sincere praise. For example, complementing someone's cooking when they've prepared a meal for you. In this situation, being honest such as "this is a little below what I expected" isn't as charming or polite as "this is very tasty."

Saving Face

Flattery used to help someone save face can be kind. For example, a manager who completely rejects an employee's work because it is low quality who flatters them on some other aspect of their work to try to lessen their embarrassment. For example, "this data is completely wrong please correct it ... and I must say that you handled that meeting today very well."

Superficial Charm

Superficial charm is an attempt to get something from someone with flattery. The line between charm and superficial charm comes down to intentions. If the intention of your flattery is selfish, this is superficial charm. For example, a speeder who tries to compliment a police officer in an attempt to avoid a ticket.

Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists easily believe flattery and may crave it such that they prioritize relationships that provide it. This is one of the dangers of being a narcissist as you may end up surrounded by people who you believe hold you in high esteem when in fact they may not.

Appeal to Flattery

The use of flattery to influence. For example, a French politician who is always talking about how wonderful France is and exalting the exceptional qualities of French people and French culture. This could be contrasted with a more depressing politician who talks about the sacrifices that need to be made to solve problems and improve.


Sycophancy is a cowardly and pathetic state of using agreeableness as your only tool of influencing. Flattery is one of the tools of sycophancy. For example, a professor who is terrified of their students such that they always give them high grades and compliment them excessively to avoid low ratings, complaints or criticism.


Flattery is commonly delivered as sarcasm. This can truly undermine someone if they don't notice the sarcasm such that they may look foolish. For example, an employee giving a presentation receives the feedback "I love your use of colors, you have a real sense of visual presentation" that is intended as sarcasm because it is obvious to everyone in the room that the slide is terrible. If the employee doesn't detect the sarcasm, they may end up looking out of touch.

Passive Aggression

Flattery is one tool of the passive aggressive whereby individuals attack others without technically doing anything wrong.

Setting Up To Fail

Flattery can be calculated and malicious as it may be intentionally designed to give someone excessive confidence in an area where they are likely to fail. For example, a coworker who encourages a peer to demand a raise by telling them they are one of the top contributors on the team and suggesting their salary is unfair. If the coworker is perceived as relatively unproductive and untalented this might be bad advice that sets them up for failure.


The ability to detect flattery to avoid falling for it is a type of social skill. This can be based on humility whereby you judge whether you really deserve positive comments.
Overview: Flattery
Insincere praise
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about influencing.
Ambiguity Effect
Active Silence
Anecdotal Evidence
Agree To Disagree
Building Trust
Call To Action
Anticipating Objections
Creative Tension
Charismatic Authority
Cruel Wit
Charm Offensive
Cultural Capital
Choice Architecture
Devils Advocate
Dry Humor
Consensus Building
Expectation Setting
Constructive Criticism
Eye Contact
Heliotropic Effect
Loaded Language
Loaded Question
Door In The Face
Peak-End Rule
Plain Language
Ethos Pathos & Logos
Rhetorical Device
Social Influence
Social Perception
False Dilemma
Social Proof
Foot In The Door
Informal Authority
Weasel Words
Information Cascade
Inside Jokes
Intrinsic Reward
Logical Argument
Managing Up
Name Dropping
Paradox Of Choice
Political Capital
Red Herring
Rhetorical Question
Rule Of Three
Self Monitoring
Small Talk
Social Tension
Straw Man
Touching Base
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