There is no effect more disproportionate to its cause than the happiness bestowed by a small compliment. ~Robert Brault
There will be a very few persons in this world who would not feel the effect of a compliment received from another. And when the compliment relates to ones looks or body there is indeed a pleasant feeling of gratification which lifts up the mood in a harmless indulgence just stopping at the boundary of narcissism. But , while being complimented upon is good for your self esteem , it should never be allowed to bloat your ego . And, one should be ready to discern between genuine compliment and flattery . There is a thin line but a wide gap between the import of the two .
Compliments are expressed without a hidden motive or a reason to extract benefit from the exchange or the relation between the two persons . Also there is no emotional, physical or patronising bondage between the two persons which necessitates the compliment. Because then it does not remain a compliment but becomes an encouragement or an incentive . It is more likely to be spontaneous and therefore straight from the heart. But flattery is directed towards the recipient with the sole object to please and create a feel good atmosphere to broach upon the next item on agenda. Flattery is a great form of art and if practiced with refinement can be a great asset for the one who practices it . There are people who can flatter with consummate ease and get their work done in the face of most challenging situations. Not everybody can deliver flattering lines easily and those who do are often envied by others who don’t have the élan and grace to carry out the smooth and glib manipulations.
Rather than blaming the flatterer , it should be the flattered who should be held responsible for the success of the flatterer . Because most of us knowingly fall for the ego massaging and tend to be in the company of people who flatter us because it generates positive vibes as long as there is no compulsion to do something . And this invariably holds true for successful , powerful and great people as it holds for the common man . Nobody is untouched from this , even the hermits and ascetics fall for it. It is just the degree of ego which gets covered. And when compliments take the form of flattery and degenerates further , that becomes sycophancy.
On the opposite side of the spectrum , we find the person who provides you with frank feedback . Here also there is the small issue of subjectivity involved . When the feedback is given out of a genuine concern for the recipient it is the best possible thing to happen . When it is given because there is an inherent contradiction between the understanding of the two persons and the feedback stems more from the non conformity of intellectual standards then it becomes an opposition . This can degenerate to hate and antipathy . The problem here is that the person who gives the feedback always believe that (s) he is right and the other side should benefit from the advice.
I will share a small incident from my personal recollection. Recently during a gathering of some friends, someone pointed at my belly and commented that it was showing signs of increase which , indeed, is a fact . But I was slightly offended with this comment in front of others . This was a very temporary feeling , like a passing cloud , but nevertheless , I did not like it. Now within ten minutes, another person came up and complimented me on looking fit and trim, loudly in front of others and making me a sort of example . I met both of them almost after the same interval of time. And as I was myself aware of my deficiencies, I could sense the flattering tone of the statement made in my praise. It intrigued me as to why the person was so lavish in his compliments all along. The mystery was cleared the next day when I received a phone call from him asking for some favour. Well that is another story and a different matter altogether. I will not dwell on it any more.
The only thing why I narrate this experience is to show how we are conditioned to perceptions that we are prone to feel through the eyes of others. The first person was concerned as a friend and tried to warn me and the second person tried to extract advantage of our friendship. Both are my friends and I have nothing against any of them. Its only that now, I know.