You’re Too Kind by Richard Stengel — buy book
You’re Too Kind
A Brief History of Flattery
by Richard Stengel
- Genres: history, philosophy
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Release date: June 8, 2000
- Author: Richard Stengel
- ISBN: 9780684854915 (0684854910)
- Language: english
- Format: hardcover, 320 pages
About The Book
Okay, who was the first flatterer? If you guessed Satan, you’d be close, but according to “You’re Too Kind,” flattery began with chimpan-zees, who groom each other all day long. In fact, flattery is an adaptive behavior that has helped us survive since caveman days. It’s in our genes. Our flattery is simply strategic praise, and to illustrate its myriad forms, Richard Stengel takes us on a witty, idiosyncratic tour, from chimps to the God of the Old Testament (who craved flattery but never got it), to the troubadour poets of the Middle Ages (who invented the sappy cliches of romantic flattery), all the way through Dale Carnegie (flattery will get you everywhere) and Monica Lewinsky’s adoring love letters to her Big Creep (faux insults are also a form of flattery).
Flattery thrives in hierarchical settings like royal courts or Fortune 500 boardrooms, and it flows both upward and downward. It is more successful when it goes downward, so be extra subtle when flattering your boss. Studies show it works best on those who already have high opinions of themselves (“Yes, that fellow Jones is very clever for perceiving how brilliant I am”). Flattery oils the social machinery of everyday life.
Stengel sees public flattery as an epidemic in our society and private praise as being all too scarce. Most often, though, flattery these days is just a harmless deception, a victimless crime that often ends up making both the giver and the receiver feel a little better.
In short, flattery works.
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