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Flattery is the act of heaping excessive, undeserved praise on an individual in order to gain favour. A form of deceit, it is harmful because:

  • Flatterers receive advantages that they do not deserve on merit, while those that do deserve them miss out.
  • If powerful people surround themselves with flatterers (or 'yes men'), poor decisions can go unchallenged, potentially leading to disaster for the governments or organisations concerned.
  • The objects of flattery can be deceived into doing themselves harm, and will certainly experience disappointment when their supposed friends are revealed to be acting out of self-interest.

Villainous characters in literature often use flattery to win the trust of others, e.g. Iago in Shakespeare's Othello and Grima Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings. In Dante's Inferno, flattery is considered a form of fraud, and flatterers are punished by being buried in filth.

See also