Friday, August 22, 2014

Importance of Flattery

Self-actualisation is the only motive that drives an organism.  Psychologist Kurt Goldstein said that. Self-actualisation, in simple words, means being (or becoming) what one can be. 

What appear to be different drives such as hunger, sex, power, achievement and curiosity are merely manifestations of the ultimate purpose which is self-actualisation.  When a person is hungry he actualises himself by eating.  Even a rapist is actualising himself, but in the most pathological way possible.  Pathology is too complex an issue to be discussed here.  So let’s get back to our topic. 

For the psychologically healthy people, self-actualisation is the organic principle by which the individual becomes more fully developed and more complete. Every individual has various needs.  The fulfilment of each need takes the individual a step forward in the self-actualising process.

Some people read and acquire more and more knowledge, thus fulfilling the need for knowledge which for them is a way of self-actualisation.  Some people ascend the ladder of hierarchy and conquer positions of more and more power, thus finding their self-actualisation.  There are infinite ways of reaching self-actualisation.

I read a good number of psychologists who discuss self-actualisation in order to find whether flattery could be a way of self-actualisation.  Not one psychologist discusses the topic.  Why?

Flattery is neither a way of self-actualisation nor an instance of psychological pathology.  It is a survival strategy of the weak and incapable.  When survival itself is a challenge, what other need can be important?  And when a person does not have any arsenal left in his armoury to fight for his survival, what can he do but flatter those who matter and get on in life?

Goldstein said that a normal, healthy person is one “in (whom) the tendency towards self-actualization is acting from within, and overcomes the disturbance arising from the clash with the world, not out of anxiety but out of the joy of conquest.” [Emphasis added]

From within.  That is what I meant by the arsenal in one’s armoury.  A sportsman’s skills lie within him.  So do a writer’s or a leader’s or any normal, healthy person’s.  When one does not possess the skills required to face the challenges lying in his path or when he has not discovered those skills within him, strategies become necessary.  Flattery is one such strategy.  A fairly harmless strategy.

Why harmless?  In fact, we can find a lot of people achieving much using that strategy.  There are many people who get on very successfully especially in their occupations by cleverly employing flattery.

Eminent self-actualisation psychologists like Abraham Maslow listed umpteen things ranging from mistrust to despair, cynicism to gracelessness, jungle world-view to bewilderment as pathologies.  Flattery does not find a place in that very long list. 

Hence, I must sadly conclude that I am the one in need of healing since I exhibit bouts of cynicism, gracelessness, and what not.  Like the three men in Jerome K Jerome’s boat, I find myself a patient in need of a physicist.  Or, at the very least, a voyage on the river of rejuvenation.

Right now, until my situation is conducive to such an adventure, let me console myself admiring the flatterers and their ingenious strategies.  

A related post which I wrote over a year ago: Your face shines like the moon


  1. Replies
    1. Chaitali, life is very gratuitous with such insights and lessons.

  2. I agree that flattery is a survival tactic of the weak. Any day, I would prefer to associate myself with honest people, rather than false flatterers.

    1. I used to view flatterers as merely amusing people. Now, that has changed. I think they are extremely dangerous people. One chief form of flattery, as I understand, is to go the bosses and speak ill of colleagues.

  3. Thought provoking. I am not a follower of shallow flattery. That only leads to one's fall. if you are a genuine friend then you will appreciate and motivate bnut not use flattery.

    1. In friendship, this is not a serious problem. No good friend will ever resort to flattery. The problem is acute in workplaces where employees try to ingratiate themselves with the people in the higher orders by resorting to flattery. That is quite ridiculous. I have seen people stooping as low as to praise the boss's new pair of shoes or the new jacket!

      There's a deadly version of flattery in which people belittle others, put blames and allegations, so that they look far better in comparison. Some bosses encourage this to further their own malicious designs.

  4. Flattery has become a skillful art now a days....the problem is if you are a poor performer in this art, most of the people think that you're a haughty person and have superiority complex :-( I don't know how to flatter and often am misunderstood ...

    I wish everybody could think about the topic in the way you've expressed your opinions about it... :-)

    1. I am a fool, Maniparna. I tried to learn this art called flattery so that I could survive in many places. I failed everywhere. ")

  5. Stimulating .Process of Self-actualisation leading to flattery ! Its true if we behave like the 'kastoori mrig'
    I was smiling when I came to the flattery part. I have witness its execution at really close quarter.. rather too close for my comfort and I have learnt everything about it but, in theory ... when the practical needs arise, a feeling(might be pride or self respect or ... donnowhat) seals my lips.... and strangely, I feel good about it :)
    So I can teach others this course but am a happy failure . Life as well as mind indeed is strange :)

  6. Flattery is a talent not everyone can master... Sigh... Btw, from the receiver's end, at times, not judging whether it is innocent or harmful, flattery can be an able savior from depressed state :-)


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