Differences between compliments and flattery


Some of us have reservations about lavishing praises on another because it is sometimes very challenging to draw a line between compliments and flattery. While most of us want to be considered as individuals who provide compliments rather than flattery, some of us ended up doing the latter. So, what is the difference between the two?

The following factors differentiate the two terms:

  • Authenticity /Degree of praise: When someone says something positive about another person, it should be true, precise and to the point. It will be good if the compliments emphasise something that is unusual and that nobody has noticed it before. For example, praising someone on their dress style on certain occasions is better than praising them on every single occasion. A sentence or two will suffice. In this case, the adage “less is more” rings true. 
  • Capturing the right moment: Usually, praising someone at the appropriate moment is very crucial. In fact, it’s best if the praises are given at the most unexpected moment when the person least expects it. For example, teachers should praise and encourage their students when the latter expect to face the music for not faring well in their tests and exams.  Employers should praise and encourage their employees when projects are not proceeding very smoothly. Notice that praises and encouragement often go together, although the latter is often discarded.
  • Praise in private/public: This is a challenging situation in the workplace. If you are an employer who intends to praise an employee, it’s best to do it in front of everyone so that the employee will feel appreciated. However, if you are an employee who intends to praise your employer, you can either do it in private or in public, although it’s advisable to make it short and precise if you choose the latter since others might misconstrue it as a form of flattery.

In a nutshell, it’s great to see someone paying another compliments and it’s also great to receive compliments from others too. But of course, it must be true in the first place.


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