It’s funny how we react to a compliment or flattery. When someone says ‘nice house’ or ‘great shoes,’ we usually try to brush it off or make less of it instead of just saying thank you and enjoying the moment. BUT, when its about our professional life we seem to lose that humble “oh shucks” response and think to ourselves, “wow they picked me, they want me, they must like me, I must really be special,” and then follow that flattery without considering the source.”
I coach entrepreneurs about raising capital and one of my consistent messages is “don’t let yourself be flattered” if an important investor or advisor shows interest in you and your company. They may actually be interested in your pitch or they may be trying to learn about the space you’re in. They may also have a portfolio company that might have synergy with yours and the list goes on. As an entrepreneur, flattery can be hard to find. When you are suddenly ‘wanted’, it can be almost intoxicating. We tend to forget that we should enjoy the moment, but then dig deep like you would when hiring or partnering with someone and not just fall under the flattery spell.
Since I coach this strategy, you would think I would be able to practice what I preach, right? Last week I was asked to join a group of world leaders at an invitation only annual forum and I fell right into the flattery spell. It was only after I checked my calendar and looked at flights that I noticed the details of the event and began to see that perhaps this opportunity was not really something I wanted to pursue. I ignored those inner voices and began to register anyway, because they picked ME! So, of course I am going!!! Thankfully, I got interrupted and did not complete my registration. Once I went back to it, some of the flattery spell had worn off and I was able to look beyond my rose colored glasses to see it was really not “my thing.” In years past, I looked longingly at the event from afar, yet upon closer inspection it was not what I had imagined. Notice that I said, imagined.
So, why do we handle flattery differently than a compliment? Compliments and flattery are so very different, yet on the surface can seem the same. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, "flattery" means false or excessive praise. "Complimenting," on the other hand, means offering respect or admiration for the other person. Where flattery is insincere, a compliment is offered with earnestness.
Its not easy to know the difference between flattery and a compliment. If someone who could gain something from you makes you feel wanted, needed or oh so very special, you may feel the spell of flattery floating over you. Don’t be fooled!
My invitation turned out not to be so special, A few days after I stopped the registration process, I got an email encouraging me to finish with a substantial discount to incentivize me to do so.
Lesson Earned once again.