Praise Or Flattery? Learn to Tell the Difference With 15 Quotes

What's the Difference Between Flattery and Praise?

Flattery Is Not Praise
Flattery Is Not Praise. Credit: Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

Praise has a therapeutic effect on the receiver. It helps to restore a person's self esteem. It gives hope. Praise is not flattery. There is a distinct difference between the two.

Learn to Differentiate Between Praise and Flattery

There is a popular Aesop's tale about the foolish crow and the wily fox. A hungry crow finds a piece of cheese, and sits on a branch of a tree to enjoy his meal. A fox who was equally hungry, sees the crow with the piece of cheese. Since he badly wants the food, he decides to trick the crow with flattering words. He lavishes praise on the crow by calling him a beautiful bird. He says that he would like to hear the crow's sweet voice, and asks the crow to sing. The foolish crow believes that the praise is genuine, and opens his mouth to sing. Only to realize that he had been fooled by the wily fox, when the cheese was hungrily devoured by the fox.

What Is the Difference Between Praise and Flattery?

The difference lies in the intent of the words. You can praise someone for their actions, or the lack of it, while flattery can be vague, undefined, and even false. Here are some ways to spot the difference between praise and flattery.

1. Praise Is Specific to a Task or an Action. Flattery Is Adulation Without a Cause.

Praise is an actionable device to encourage positive outcome. For instance, a teacher could praise her student by saying, "John, your handwriting has improved since last week. Good job!" Now, such words of praise can help John to improve his handwriting further. He knows what his teacher likes, and he can work on his handwriting to produce better results. However, if the teacher says, "John, you're good in class. I think you're the best!" these words are unspecific, vague, and offer no direction for improvement to the receiver. John will of course, feel good about the kind words from his teacher, but he wouldn't know how to be better in his class.

2. Praise Intends to Encourage, Flattery Intends to Deceive.

Flattery is buttering up. With flattering words, someone hopes to get their job done without any concern for the person who receives the flattery. Flattery is based on an ulterior motive, that only benefits the flatterer. On the other hand, praise benefits the receiver, by encouraging the receiver to see the positive side of life. Praise helps others to recognize their talents, raise their self-esteem, restore hope, and give direction. Praise helps both the giver and the receiver. 

3. Those Who Praise Are Immensely Self-Confident, Those Who Flatter Don't Have Confidence.

Since flattery is manipulative, flatterers are usually spineless, weak, and of poor character. They feed on other's ego and hope to get scraps of goodies from egocentric megalomaniacs. Those who flatter don't have leadership qualities. They lack the personality to inspire and instill confidence.

On the other hand, praise givers are usually self confident, and assume leadership positions. They are able to infuse positive energy in their team, and they know how to channel the energy of each member of the team through praise and encouragement. By giving praise, they can not just help others grow, but they also enjoy self-growth. Praise and appreciation go hand in hand. And so does flattery and adulation.

4. Praise Fosters Trust, Flattery Fosters Mistrust.

Would you trust a person who tells you how wonderful you are, how kind you are, or how great you are? Or would you trust a person who tells you that you are a good co-worker, but you need to improve your social skills?

It is tough to spot flattery, if the flatterer is cunning enough to veil his words to sound like appreciation. A devious person could make flattery look like genuine praise. In the words of Walter Raleigh: 

"But it is hard to know them from friends, they are so obsequious and full of protestations; for a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend."

You have to be careful when you receive compliments that amount to nothing. Flattery according to the Bible, "is a form of hatred." Flattery can be used to manipulate, cheat, deceive, and hurt others.

5. Beware of Flattery Because Flatterers Can Hurt You

Words that are sweetened with honeyed words can fool the gullible. Don't let others sway you by their sweet words that mean nothing. If you meet someone who praises you without reason, or charms you with honeyed words of appreciation, it is time to cock your ears and listen beyond the words. Ask yourself: 

'Is he or she trying to woo me? What are his/her intentions?' 

'Are these words true or false?'

'Can there be an ulterior motive behind these flattering words?'

6. Accept Praise With a Pinch of Salt

Let praise or flattery not go into your head. While it is good to hear praise, accept it with a pinch of salt. Perhaps, the person who praised you is usually generous. Or perhaps, the person praising you wants something out of you. Flattery can be exhausting, even if they are generous. It is like eating too much sweet, and feeling sick after a while. Praise on the other hand is measured, specific, and direct.

7. Know Who Your Real Friends and Well Wishers Are

Sometimes, those who criticize you more often than praise you have the best interest in their heart. They may be stingy when it comes to praise, but their words of appreciation is more genuine than compliments you gather from a stranger. Learn to spot your true friends, from those who are friends in good times. Shower praises and compliments wherever necessary, but not because you want to gain a fat favor. Be genuine and specific while praising someone, if you want to be accepted as a well-wisher. If someone flatters you, and you are unable to tell whether it is flattery or praise, double check with a true friend, who can help you see the difference. A good friend will puncture your inflated ego, and bring you back to ground reality, if the need arises.

Here are 15 quotes that talk about about praise and flattery. Follow the advice given in these 15 inspirational quotes on praise and flattery, and you will be able to tell the difference between praise and flattery every time.

Minna Antrim
Between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt.
Baruch Spinoza
None are more taken in by flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not.
Samuel Johnson
Just praise is only a debt, but flattery is a present.
Anne Bradstreet
Sweet words are like honey, a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.
Italian Proverb
He that flatters you more than you desire either has deceived you or wishes to deceive.
The sweetest of all sounds is praise.
Miguel de Cervantes
It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.
Marilyn Monroe
It is wonderful to have someone praise you, to be desired.
John Wooden
You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.
Leo Tolstoy
In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning.
Croft M. Pentz
Praise, like sunlight, helps all things to grow.
Zig Ziglar
If you're sincere, praise is effective. If you're insincere, it's manipulative.
Norman Vincent Peale
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
Orison Swett Marden
There is no investment you can make which will pay you so well as the effort to scatter sunshine and good cheer through your establishment.
Charles Fillmore
We increase whatever we praise. The whole creation responds to praise, and is glad.