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The Art of Sucking Up, and Why It Works

Mae West is not remembered for her business management smarts, but she was as insightful as Peter Drucker when she observed, "Flattery will get you everywhere."

It turns out this is perfectly true. Flattery, even over-the-top, obvious sucking up will often make the receiver feel predisposed toward you and more willing to work in your favor.

Unconscious ideas, such as those generated by flattery, seem impervious to contradictory information, we learn from HBR editor Andrew O'Connell in Why Flattery is Effective.

"Persuade a customer or colleague on a conscious level, and he or she will retain that conviction only until a better counterargument comes along. Persuade a person on a gut level, and the feeling will last and last. And last."
Used effectively, flattery can create lasting feelings that could positively affect any number of business encounters, from board presentations to job interviews. Read his post for the scientific explanation on why flattery works.

I wouldn't invest too much personal stock in the notion that even over-the-top a** kissing works -- could an "insincere sycophant" such as Eddie Haskell fool anyone for long? But clearly a touch of the old blarney has its place in your Effective Communications Toolkit.

Maybe George Bernard Shaw was the most perceptive on this issue.

"What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering."
Has flattery helped your career? How do you use it? Have I told you how beautiful you look in blue?

(Flattery image by Paris Bueller, CC 3.0)

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