When you compliment someone, the person feels good about herself, she is suddenly in a more cheerful mood, and she is more likely to do something for you in return. That’s why flattery can make you more persuasive.
Here are examples where people successfully used the tactic of ingratiation, or purposely putting yourself in the good graces of another:
- Psychologists who used descriptive adjectives that appealed to a person’s generosity (“you’re so thoughtful”) were successful in persuading people to fill out a questionnaire. Research also shows that inserting terms about yourself, referring to your sincerity and your appreciation for the other person’s help, can be persuasive because it makes you more likeable. People often are persuaded to do things for those they like.
- Psychologist Anthony Pratkanis sent out a team to ask passersby to participate in a “stop junk mail” crusade by writing postcards to direct-mail companies. More people complied with the request after the psychologists had complimented them on an article of clothing or jewelry they were wearing. The success, Pratkanis said, was because the compliments brightened the person’s mood.
So don’t hesitate to compliment someone, but be sincere. When you are conspicuous, perhaps “laying it on thick,” then the recipient will see through it easily.
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