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How to Become a Powerful Flatterer

Flattery can be a powerful weapon provided it is correctly deployed. Let’s take a parenting situation – big brother is being a shit to his little brother. As opposed to scolding the big brother, the parents comment on how nice it is that he is kind to the little bugger. Provided the older brother is not a cold-blooded sociopath, this flattery will serve to concrete positive reinforcement in the mind of the child to which he would strive.

My ex-wife used to deploy flattery very successfully. She used to love coffee in bed in the morning – she said I made the best coffee in the world – needless to say, she always got coffee in bed. She also said that I was an exceptional ironer of laundry (especially dress shirts) – and like a complete idiot, I fell for that.

People are afraid to give positive reinforcement. They are concerned it will lead to laziness. Do not tell your husband he is handy around the house, because then he will rest on his laurels. Most humans are not wired that way. Positive energy breeds more positive energy and then creates the desire to be even better and do more. Motivation does not cause people to take their foot off the gas, it makes them push harder on the accelerator. This goes back to the mantra that success breeds success.

Oscar Niemeyer, a Brazilian architect, was called upon to design the new capital city of Brasilia in the 1960s. I traveled to Brazil regularly on business and if you had to describe it in a few words, they would be: vibrant, flamboyant, rumba, soccer, passion, and political debate.

If, however, you travel to Brasilia, you will see a design that is very un-Brazilian. The architecture is very clean and futuristic. The architect wanted to project what Brazil should be in the future – rational, orderly, powerful, and formal He was projecting a future in which there was no corruption and chaos. This is a complex case of flattery. Journalists asked Niemeyer why he designed a city so unlike the country it represented and his reply was: Brazil would not always be that way.

We all crave flattery – other people’s belief in us in order to bolster the way we see ourselves. We see this as the opportunity to grow into the person that is being described to us in the flattery. You can powerfully deploy this in your professional and personal relationships. The trick is to ensure that the flattery is honest and genuine - otherwise, the person being flattered will think you are dickhead blowing wind up their ass to get something.

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