We all love to hear compliments and flattery because they raise our self-esteem and remove self-doubt. This type of praise is solely for personal gain, leaving us vulnerable to acts of manipulation. But, there's another flattery technique that is more valuable and has ethical ambitions that can potentially change the world for good — guided flattery.

In the video, "The Importance of Flattery," The School of Life explains flattery is vital, because we strongly need guidance to develop beyond what we are right now. In other words, we need other people's belief in us to bolster our capacities for reform and growth. This gives us a chance to grow into the person we have flatteringly been described as already being.

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For example, in 1956, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was invited to create a new capital city for his nation, Brasilia. Brazil is known as a country with frenetic economic activity, or rainforest and Amazonian villages, favelas, soccer, beaches, and disagreements about political parties, among other things. Yet, Brasilia's architecture breeds a beautiful, serene, futuristic atmosphere where buildings propose rationality is powerful and order and harmony will reign, and corruption and chaos will cease to exist.

"Oscar Niemeyer’s capital is an essay in flattery," according to The School of Life.

It suggests there are certain desirable qualities that are possible, and could one day be central to the country and those who govern it. Niemeyer consciously designed Brasilia not to reflect current Brazil, but to showcase the potential it has to reform and grow.

Flattery should be less centered on personal gain, and be used as a motivational tool of something that can instill generosity, intelligence, and wisdom in us.

In a 2014 study, researchers had about 100 college interns fill out two online surveys — one during the internship, and a second upon its completion on their ingratiation and networking behaviors with their direct supervisors. Ingratiation was defined as flattery, favor-doing and opinion conformity, while appearing genuine. 

The researchers found interns who ingratiated, but did not have political skill, were less well liked by their supervisors, and had their performance ratings go down. Those who possessed political skill and chose to ingratiate were better liked by their supervisors, but this liking did not translate into an improvement in their job performance ratings.

Instead of using flattery for personal gain, we can follow Niemeyer's example, and use it to develop a world where we'll be able to genuinely praise someone.

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