Oh yes, I know all about how flattery can fog perceptions. There’s a difference between a compliment and flattery. Someone who pays you a compliment does not expect you to get caught up in it.
I’ve mentioned before I was raised by narcissists. Flattery was a way to build you up – before dragging you down as far as you could go. It’s created a situation for me where I’m nervous about accepting all but the most surface of compliments. I can’t think of specifics right now – but they’ve gotten me. Many times, especially when I was younger. It’s the flattery that leads to the toxic friendships.
There’s one years ago where the girl had already started a campaign against me. She wasn’t going to stop until she was sure I had no friends left – but she still wanted to use me. On one day when it was obvious that she’d heaped on flattery to get a ride somewhere, she started going on about how her boyfriend “adored” mine (they never spoke) and how she of course wanted me there – I added so much to the stuff we did. I realize now that such placation is total insincerity. Actions always do speak louder than words.
I have a hard time remembering specifics but I know it’s happened. Perhaps I’m just embarrassed to remember them. It’s taken me a lot to get to the point where I can acknowledge my embarrassments.
I myself am bad about giving compliments. I forget to give them even when I am truly appreciative of the help I’ve received or genuinely impressed by someone’s talent. I have to remind myself to say something/do something.
That said, non-praise is also a form of manipulation. My mother was a master of both. Most narcissists are a master of both – either saying nothing when I accomplished something great or realizing I should feel great and then, a favorite of my sister’s, proceeding to make me feel like shit for feeling good about myself.
I’ve also been involved with witholders. The withholding types are usually men, as opposed to the negatively inclined women who seem to be able to give and take on both sides as a means of control. My ex was a withholder. Two guys I spent time with right after my divorce withheld. It’s not just compliments… it’s basic emotional connection. None of these guys would give a thing of themselves – but all felt free to push me to make myself as vulnerable as possible. I knew something was wrong in these relationships, I just didn’t have the word for the problem until years later. Yup, total withholders.
I’ve done it, too, but not intentionally. I am trying to make it so if I see something good about someone – even someone I dislike – I will point to what I think is good and say so. It’s a tough practice, one that requires a lot of ego swallowing. But it helps me become more objective and confuses my enemies terribly. Neither is a bad thing.
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