Compliments vs. Flattery: How To Tell The Difference

Although these words are often used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between compliments and flattery.  Following are the differences; and how to know if YOU are complimenting someone or flattering them. Think of a compliment as authentic with no hidden agenda. Flattery, on the other hand, is to say something nice for a hidden reason or agenda. 

How can you tell if someone is flattering you versus giving you a true compliment or praise? 

  1. Is it general and excessive in nature? Flattery is when someone says something general such as, “You are so nice…” or “You are so smart…” without giving specifics. Their praise make you wonder what is it about. In contrast, true compliments are specific.
  1. Does the person want or need something from you shortly after they have said something nice? If so, then they may be flattering you to get what they want. Sometimes it may even be that they want you to like them! 
  1. Does it feel “off”? Does it not sit well with you? Meaning you don’t understand why they said what they said? Maybe it is out of context. Maybe it just does not sound authentic. If you question the authenticity, then it could be flattery.

Sometimes we may question ourselves before we give a compliment. We want to give a genuine compliment, but we may be wonder if the other person will question if we have a hidden agenda. Maybe it’s someone in authority or influential, and we fear that they will take it as just a way that way we want to “brown nose” to gain favor or avoid correction or punishment. However, if you want to give someone a compliment, push your fears aside and compliment them anyway. If you know on the inside that the compliment is authentic, it should show be received that way by the other person. 

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