When you introduce friends in a social setting by flattering them, you probably just want to make them feel good. But here are some unintended negative consequences of flattery:
1. You create expectations. You don’t let your friend establish his or her own impression and identity. You taint the new relationship with preconceived notions rather than allowing a rapport to evolve in a more interesting and natural way.
2. You reduce friends to their resumé. The character and essence of a person are more important and intangible than a checklist of accomplishments.
3. You ignore the nuances. You imply that you primarily appreciate your friends for their achievements and may not appreciate the nuances and mystery of who they really are.
4. You are using your friend to enhance your status. You give the impression that you are trying to boost your own self-esteem by boasting about being connected to someone “important,” “smart,” or “talented.” This often reveals a desire to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.
5. You embarrass your friend. Blatant flattery puts friends on the defensive and in the position of being embarrassed. They may then feel they have to downplay their accomplishments or alternatively to live up to their accomplishments.
6. You cause others to feel inferior. By playing up your friend’s achievements, you might cause others to feel inferior or inadequate.
There are some people who will be delighted if you introduce them with a fanfare-accompanied list of their achievements. However, you actually show more faith in a friend by introducing him or her with a simple “This is my good friend Alex.”
Of course, there are always exceptions. In business, relevant detailed introductions are necessary, and sometimes it could be helpful to let people know that they have something of interest in common. Both can be done without flattery.
Nothing is so great an example of bad manners as flattery. If you flatter all the company, you please none; If you flatter only one or two, you offend the rest.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD