THE ART OF FLATTERY
The desire to be noticed and admired is a basic human need. Once in a while everyone wants a little praise. It is quite natural. Within limits, it is even beneficial. A word of appreciation can put new heart into a man It can inspire him to greater effort. But it is only genuine appreciation, which can have that effect. The praise we receive must be well deserved. As soon as it is exaggerated, it becomes flattery.
Why do people take to flattery? The most apparent motive is to please the one who is flattered. But behind that lie deeper motives. By pleasing the object of his attentions, the flatterer is usually trying to gain some advantage. He may be trying to get an undue favour. He may be trying of squeeze out some money. Or he may be hankering after a position. He may be doing it for some other reason. But we can be sure of one thing at least. He does not normally deserve what he wants to get. He knows that very well. Therefore, he takes advantage of a basic human weakness. Anybody too fond of his own praise is his natural prey. It takes two to make a flatterer.
The art of flattery has an ancient history. In olden times flatterers practiced their art in the open and for all to see. Bards and singers sang
the praises of kings and sought royal patronage. They pleased their patrons and were rewarded. Some even managed to find permanent places in the royal courts. They were professional flatterers. And they were honest enough to admit that But with the decline of kings, their tribe too has vanished.
Now-a-days the practice of flattery has been greatly refined. In the process, it has acquired several new names. Unsophisticated people in India call it maska-polish. The educated classes refer to it as the art of winning friends and influencing people. Governments and business-concerns describe it as public-relations. We meet flatterers at every step in civilized society.
Practitioners of the art of flattery today employ numerous methods. But there are a few basic qualities to be found in all of them. First of all, every flatterer is equipped with an oily tongue. He is just incapable of uttering a harsh or angry word. Even if he has to contradict you, he will do it with great finesse. He will not let you feel offended at any cost.
Secondly, he has an inexhaustible reserve of patience and perseverance. You may go to any lengths to avoid him. But he will beat a path to your door. You may snub him. You may hurl insults at him. But he will not be put off. He will go on trying to ingratiate himself with you by all means. He will try to oblige people close to you. He will make friends with the children. Meeting you by the roadside, he will be extra -polite. He will be extra-solicitous about your health. He will do everything to show that he is ready to die at your command. All the time he is inter it on breaking your defenses. Ultimately some day you will relent. You may even fall to thinking that he is a nice person. You may come to feels that you have given him a shabby treatment. That is the opportunity has been waiting for all the time. He will make the best of it.
An oily tongue and unlimited patience are basic equipment for every flatterer. But experts in the art employ many other tricks besides. They exercise great care in spotting likely clients. They would never waste time on someone who has nothing to give. They will not bother even to talk of such a man. But let them spot a person from whom they can derive so he advantage. They will be all courtesy to him. If they do not happen to know him, they will find a way to get introduced. They will give their would-be patron a simple test. They will praise him to his face and see how he takes it. If he looks pleased, he is certainly their man. It means he has a touch of vanity in him. If he is not pleased, they will praise him for being immune to flattery.
Flattery feeds people’s vanity. Therefore, the artful flatterer picks, on whatever things can make people vain, i.e., wealth, power, beauty ate. But he is usually an expert in camouflage. He will spot in his patron virtues, which the latter does not possess. He will praise a rich man for his wisdom, an ugly-looking politician for his patriotism, and a beautiful lady for her intellect. Likewise, he will commend a fool for his wit, and a knave for his honesty. And he will go about it in a very convincing manner. He considers himself successful when his patron also comes to believe the falsehoods. When this happens, it is a sign that the latter has lost the capacity to distinguish between good and evil or vice and virtue. He has learnt to flatter himself. The flatterer then finds his way clear.
The skilful flatterer is very careful in choosing his methods also. He will avoid paying compliments orally. That may strike him as too unrefined. He may not even praise you in writing. But when you are in company, he will be bubbling with admiration for you. He will idolize you, and thus try to win your favour.
There is, however, one arch-flatterer who excels all flatterers. It is our own self. If we refuse to be flattered by ourselves, others can never succeed in flattering us. If we make it a habit of keeping our good and bad points always in view, we shall be beyond the reach of the most skilful flatterer.