July 16, 2007

People are motivated to accept compliments

In his new book What Were They Thinking, Jeffrey Pfeffer writes an interesting chapter about good manners, friendliness and compliments called How to Turn of the Charm. He writes: "Complimenting people works quite well to increase likeability. That's because of the self-enhancement motive - our desire to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. We like people who help us do that. People often underestimate the power of flattery, because we think we won't be taken in. But we are motivated to believe compliments are sincere..... Given the motivational desire to feel better rather than worse, the odds are you are going to not look a "gift compliment" in the mouth or subject in to too much scrutiny." I still go for sincerity in compliments but what Pfeffer says here makes me realize we don't have to be too afraid people will take well meant compliments the wrong way.


  1. I think this is probably true for most people, most of the time. But we all know some people who will not accept compliments in certain domains. I've known of many girls who didn't accept the compliment of being beautiful because earlier in life they were considered unattractive.

  2. Hi Rodney, although i think Pfeffer is largely right I still would advice people to be reluctant to use flattery. I think compliments work best if they are: 1) sincere, 2) indirect, 3) process-oriented

  3. Coert,

    What's an example of an indirect compliment?



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