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Fake Flattery’s Sincere Truth

pic: Adam Fuchs

Sycophantically praising people no matter how insincerely you do it makes them happy and boosts your relationship, Guardian writer Oliver Burkeman reported.

The author of new book Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done’ referred to a ‘growing body of research’ proving Abraham Lincoln’s observation that ‘everybody likes a compliment’, including a study showing that even computer generated compliments work even when patently manufactured.

“The human truth underlying all this is either pathetic or poignant: we want almost nothing in life, it seems, quite so acutely as just to feel better about ourselves,” said Burkeman,

“As cheesy as this sounds, it's also a useful reminder of the best life/ career/ relationship advice out there: most of the time, all anyone really wants is for you to praise them a bit. Sincerely if possible,” he advised. (Guardian; )

The dangers of being deceived by flatterers, however were clinically analysed previously by definitive Renaissance man, Niccolo Machievelli, who devoted an entire chapter to the topic in his seminal ‘how to’ business guide The Prince, written in 1510.

“There is no other way of guarding oneself from flatterers except letting men understand that to tell you the truth does not offend you; but when every one may tell you the truth, respect for you abates,” the Florence courtier noted (in ‘How Flatterers Should Be Avoided’.)

“Therefore a wise prince ought to hold a third course by choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the liberty of speaking the truth to him, and then only of those things of which he inquires, and of none others; but he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions,” he recommended.

“With these councillors, separately and collectively, he ought to carry himself in such a way that each of them should know that, the more freely he shall speak, the more he shall be preferred; outside of these, he should listen to no one, pursue the thing resolved on, and be steadfast in his resolutions.”

“He who does otherwise is either overthrown by flatterers, or is so often changed by varying opinions that he falls into contempt,” he warned. (The Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli
Written c. 1505, published 1515) (Chapter 23: How Flatterers Should Be Avoided)

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