“Remember, he who butters also holds a knife”?Anonymous Human beings are basically narcissists with each posited on a varying degree of narcissism but it is an understood fact that all want to be praised and appreciated for what they are and at times, even for what they are not. While some may forcefully demand applause, others may appear tranquil, in silent expectation of accolades. Within everyone’s heart and mind exists the desire to be considered noble and good. The most sinister of criminals eagerly look forward to being acknowledged for their atrocities and their way of committing felonies. What to talk of humans, even animals, particularly pets, yearn for that commending stroke of hand or that prized treat for being valued. They cannot speak but they definitely understand their masters’ body language and easily discern their different attitudes. Truly speaking, paying genuine compliments can brighten up any person’s day. This also helps encourage good deeds and is a means to embarking upon a more intimate relationship as these wonderful comments cement ties with other fellow beings. Of course, there is a great difference between compliment and flattery with the former closer to the truth and the latter based on falsehood. This is the main reason why flattery is construed in negative terms and those who indulge in flattery are eyed with suspicion by all except in most cases by the target person who is perhaps enthralled at the idea of being glorified. One is reminded of a famous story in Aesop’s Fables where a fox came upon a crow sitting on a branch with a piece of cheese in its beak. To snatch this savoury, the fox, using its guile began to flatter the crow, calling it beautiful and wishing to know whether its voice was as charming as its looks. Overwhelmed by these words, the crow opened its beak to let out the most horrific sound one can imagine and in doing so, dropped the cheese which was immediately grabbed by the sly fox. A relationship that is founded on flattery would be short-lived as is obvious from break-ups, divorces and falling apart of partnerships. A counterargument related to flattery is that it helps to coax persons who are reluctant to perform something particular. For example, if those who are hesitant in exploring their hidden talents say of singing, dancing, painting, acting etc. are enticed towards trying out these feats by flattery, there is a possibility that they may discover something in themselves that can bring about a substantial change in their lives. Although based on false notions, there could be many potential celebrities waiting to hit the limelight. In these instances, the flatterer has to be one with clean and clear intentions, which in the majority of cases is impossible, so intertwined is flattery with chicanery. One of the worst forms of flattery is its ability to exert control over others, usually to exploit them for selfish and nefarious purposes. In everyday life, there are innumerable examples of young female teenagers, office workers and even highly placed professionals who are seduced into an unhealthy and abusive relationship much to the dismay of their parents, families and even their aspirations all because of the cunningness of some flatterers who found these women vulnerable to their sweet talk. Besides females, many established males too get entangled in the mesh of ambitious women’s cajolery only to lose not only their wealth but also their dear ones at times. In Sonnet 138 (When my love swears that she is made of truth), Shakespeare said, “Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust, Therefore I lie with her and she with me, And in our faults by lies, we flattered be.” In other words, a relationship that has its foundation on flattery would be short-lived as is obvious from break-ups, divorces and falling apart of partnerships. The hurt that comes from the knowledge that all which was spoken with exaltation was nothing but untruth can cause loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. It can take many difficult years to rebuild one’s shattered image in one’s own eyes. Another result of such agony could be a mental imbalance that may trigger the criminal within or force one to commit suicide or become revengeful thus destroying other innocent lives. The place where flattery can be viewed with complete flamboyance is in the corridors of power where rogues act to make personal gains at the expense of adulating those who can deliver. Already their minds are intoxicated with authority that gets further swelled up when sycophants hum the right tunes around them but only a few realize the superficiality of false admiration having highly damaging consequences as proven historically. While many get away with pretences, only a few can stay mum and fewer still can call a spade, a spade, especially when put to the test. As explained by Jean de la Bruyere: “We should keep silent about those in power; to speak well of them almost implies flattery; to speak ill of them while they are alive is dangerous, and when they are dead is cowardly.” Strong people do not depend upon flattery to achieve their objectives as they can bank upon their abilities and qualities. They may pass compliments to win some hearts but never resort to deception for selfish interests. Only the feeble, insecure and diffident are the ones to make use of flattery as a tool to move forward in life. The writer is a lawyer, author, Adjunct Faculty (Lahore University of Management Sciences), member of Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow (Pakistan Institute of Development Economics).