Start sucking up: Why flattery works


Even if they know your motives aren't sincere, co-workers and clients might still appreciate your compliments.

“I love your hairstyle! Your new shoes look great! You take such great care of your pet.” Even if these things aren't true, saying them to your co-workers and clients might help you get ahead.

According to a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology study, even when people consciously identify a compliment as fraudulent, they often unconsciously believe it. In the study, researchers Jaideep Sengupta and Elaine Chan gave participants a flier that said they had good fashion sense. They were told a clothing store had supplied the flier, which contained an advertisement from the store.

Consciously, most participants dismissed the obvious attempt at flattery. But on an implicit level, they felt more positively about the store than participants who hadn't seen a flier.

So if you're trying to explain the importance of parasite testing to a client or trying to get in good with the boss, a compliment might be your ticket to success. As Harvard Business Review Editor Andrew O'Connell blogged about the study, “Flattery has an insidious ability to worm its way into the unconscious, where it creates persistent feelings that could affect the outcomes of all kinds of business interactions, from job interviews to sales to boardroom presentations.” Or maybe even convincing clients to bring in a fecal sample.

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