Buttering someone up gets harder as you go through life. The subjects of your flattery become wiser, and more likely to see through obvious compliments.
With that in mind, researchers surveyed thousands of corporate high-ups to get their tips on ingratiating others without raising suspicions or mistrust. In a recent post for LinkedIn, Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, condensed the findings into practical strategies. We’ve excerpted three of the best — and sneakiest — ones below:
Framing flattery as likely to make the recipient uncomfortable.
Executives frequently preface compliments with disclaimers such as, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but…” or “I know you won’t want me to say this, but…” Grant says this approach “disguises the goal” of flattery, and paints the recipient of the compliment in a positive light by presuming his or her modesty.
Compliment the recipient around her friends.
Sooner or later, a compliment given about you to a friend will get back to you. This allows the subject of the flattery to feel genuinely surprised, because the feedback has come indirectly. It also keeps the compliment-giver from looking like an obvious suck up, because he or she had no way of knowing the praise would make it to the individual in the first place.
Argue a little before conforming to the subject’s viewpoint.
We don’t like people to immediately agree with us — it feels like they’re sucking up. “When they argue with us first and then go along, it validates our beliefs that we’re smart and logical,” Grant writes. If you challenge the person a little before agreeing, your eventual concurrence feels not only more genuine but also more worthwhile.
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