As long as another’s praise doesn’t sound patently insincere, you’re likely to welcome it. Being richly recognized for what you do—or who you are—just feels good. It’s wonderfully confirming, as reassuring as it is validating. Most of us thrive on compliments and flattery precisely because they can buoy us up, warm our hearts, and allay old fears and self-doubts.
But praise has its dark side, too. Much more than we typically realize, it can constitute a kind of verbal bribery, offered primarily to serve the interest of the person offering it. This post will suggest six ways that praise might be disbursed with the hidden intention of winning your favor, or wrangling something out of you—something you probably wouldn’t be willing to grant otherwise.
If you’re insecure, and so require external confirmation to feel worthwhile or good about yourself, you’ll be especially susceptible to (or a “target” for) disingenuous praise with invisible strings (or a price tag) attached to it. Such praise comes at a cost. Exploitive praisers prey on those with self-esteem deficiencies and seem to have radar for detecting them, They know exactly how to raise your confidence—and reduce your uncertainty—through flattering machinations ultimately designed not for your welfare but their own.
This is hardly to suggest that you should be suspicious (or paranoid) upon any instance of another’s positive acknowledgment. But at times it would be wise to consider whether the person praising you might not be craftily maneuvering for something in return—whether, essentially, their praise is a “set up.” Particularly if their compliments seem overblown, the chance of their having some ulterior motive to take advantage of you may be something you need to explore.
Here are six ways flatterers might, covertly, be scheming to “take you in”:
Short of becoming indiscriminately wary of others’ praise or flattery, it’s only prudent to consider whether they might have a hidden agenda in praising you. That way you can minimize the possibility that their seemingly trustworthy compliments aren’t really some sort of two-faced con.
Note 1: I’ve written two previous posts on manipulation, both of which ironically point out its little recognized positive aspects (see “A New Take on Manipulation” and “The Intriguing Upside of Manipulation”).
To further “turn the tables” on this provocative subject, this post has focused on praise— typically viewed favorably—as it may be perceived from a less positive (that is, negatively manipulative) perspective.
I've also written a series of posts on getting conned. Here's part 1: "How Vulnerable Are You to Being Duped?"
Note 2: If you somehow resonated to this post, I hope you’ll consider sending its link to others.
Additionally, if you’d like to review other posts I’ve done for PT, please click here.
© 2014 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
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