The Art of Sucking Up

By Jacob Harper on 2 January 2012 (Updated 18 January 2012) 0 comments
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Nobody likes a suck-up.

Well, that’s not true at all, is it?

Nobody likes a suck-up who sucks at it. People absolutely adore a good suck-up. And a good suck-up is a good friend, and people look out for their friends. “What a grand-slam of a guy,” people say about the master class suck-up. “Always knows what to say. We should help him and his business out in any way we can!”

At its base, sucking up is misunderstood as flattery. Good sucking up isn’t flattery. It’s making people feel good and comfortable in their own skin while being honest and still getting done what needs to get done. And it’s an essential art in networking and business.

Sucking Up, Defined

As the boss, you might think you have no one to suck up to. Oh, how wrong you are.

You have much to gain from mastering the art of “Making People Feel Good About Themselves and In Turn, You.” Sucking up isn’t just straight calculated manipulation—we’ll leave the Machiavellian politicking to Machiavelli, thank you kindly. The art of sucking up, rather, is merely recognizing how to tell the truth in the best possible way while giving a tune-up to other people’s egos by letting them know, hey, I understand (and maybe you should understand anyways.) Good sucking up is both accomplishing objectives while making people feel good about the outcome—all without lying or misrepresenting anything.

Egos are other people’s engines. And here are some tips on servicing that engine.

Empathize

There’s not much difference between the truth and how you tell the truth. Interpretation is wildly subjective, and the good suck-up recognizes that a person’s actions, foibles, and follies can almost always be viewed in a positive manner. You just have to recognize that people’s weaknesses are also, in the right light, their strengths. And you’re more like other people than you might have realized.

Sucking up well is being vulnerable and empathetic. When sucking up, don’t shy away from talking about people’s weaknesses. But don’t be afraid to share your own. A good suck up explores areas previously thought of as a weakness, and shares in those wonderful deficiencies. And then shares a good cry (not really, unless that comes about organically. Then congratulations on the wonderful breakthrough.)

Be Sparing in Your Sucking Up

Nothing clogs things up quite like flooding people with a torrent of suck-up. If you get known for sucking up indiscriminately your words will have less impact. This doesn’t mean you should adopt the attitude of the stern father who keeps everyone driven by withholding love and kind words (though that tactic has been exceptionally popular for the last few thousand years.) But don’t get branded as someone insincere who just vomits up compliments left and right.

A good suck up’s words carry weight because they both are thoughtful and spare. And unusual. Yes, unusual.

Don’t Tell People What They Already Know

A bad suck up is an echo chamber. They merely regurgitate the party line of positive comments that have been said a thousand times. A bad suck up tells other people what they already know they’re good at doing, and likewise gets drowned out.

A good suck up, on the other hand, looks to enforce previously undiscovered attributes of those around him or her. As stated above, weaknesses in the right light are strengths. What are the possibly positive attributes of the people around you that nobody notices? Would it help them out to know that other people recognize it? A good suck up thinks about these things. And stays consistent.

Don’t Lie! Really, Don’t!

As noted above, there’s a few different ways to say things. But at the kernel of every subjective viewpoint is what you truly believe. While there is a positive way of viewing things, this doesn’t mean that you can just starting making stuff up. Because unless you are keeping scrupulous notes, you’re not going to be able to keep track of all the BS you’ve been making up. Not to mention, you’ll be a “liar, liar pants on fire,” and nobody likes one of those.

Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” As you get older, you’re going to get worse at remembering things. And at press time you are currently aging. Thus, your memory is currently getting worse. So make it easy on yourself. Suck up well, but never lie. Just don’t forget how you told the truth.

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