Rather Than Faking Your Emotions At Work, Use This Flattery Technique Instead
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
You might have seen my recent Forbes article “If You Have To Fake Your Emotions At Work, Research Shows You're Probably Going To Be Miserable.” After analyzing data from the online test “Does Your Job Require High Or Low Emotional Intelligence?” I discovered that 51% of people said that they Always or Frequently have to ‘act’ or ‘put on a show’ at their jobs. And even worse, that 51 % who have to ‘put on a show’ are 32% less likely to love their job. Or put another way, if you don't have to fake your emotions at work, you’re 32% more likely to love your job.
Now, the reality is that we’re all going to have to ‘fake it’ from time to time. When we get hit with a foul mood and we have a big meeting, we’re all going to need to put on a happy face by faking a smile. But when we’re consistently faking it, when every day requires a big pep talk in front of the mirror, we are virtually guaranteed to get burned out.
And not only will we suffer burnout, but our career will suffer because our colleagues and bosses simply don’t want to work with someone who is consistently negative and dour.
Fortunately, there is a trick that can make life a bit better. Rather than trying to force a smile on your face for 10 hours a day, use some flattery with those around you, especially your boss.
Flattery actually does work. It is effective. Saying nice things to people is a really good way to build relationships (it's not the only way, but it is a helpful tool). Great salespeople know this. They make flattery part of their communication skills as they know it helps you sell stuff. Great presenters know this. They use flattery as one of their communication skills to help win over audiences. You should make flattery part of your communication skills, too.
But there is a fine between flattery that is effective and flattery that just seems insincere and pandering. Imagine you go into your boss' office and say, "Oh my gosh. You just are awesome. Everything is just so amazing. You're just, wow, I don't know how you're so good." That sounds insincere.
What does work well is when you pick some very specific behavior and you compliment that particular thing. So, imagine you go in and say:
"Listen boss, I just wanted to say thank you. That feedback you gave me last week before I went into that presentation, wow. Because of what you told me, I rocked it in there. And the way you told me to put those data analysis at the beginning of presentation, they loved it."
Now, when you do that, you've complimented a very specific thing, and this doesn't feel insincere. You don't want to go around picking things that aren't really worth complimenting: "Oh, the way you just sat there all day yesterday, and didn't talk to me, that was great." No. Pick something where they actually did really well, and really helped you out, so when you compliment that specific action it doesn't feel fluffy and abstract. Instead, it feels very concrete.
When you do that, people start to say, "Hey, this person really noticed what I did. I thought that was some pretty good feedback I gave them last week, and that's really cool that they noticed it. This person's pretty sharp." That's where flattery starts to become a very effective tool and a critical part of your communication skills.
Think about the last time somebody gave you a very specific compliment. Maybe they said “wow, those 3 extra charts you put into the presentation really highlighted the value of our product…that made all the difference in our presentation.” That feels pretty great, right? Of course it does. It doesn’t feel insincere because it’s so specific. And now imagine how your boss and colleagues will feel when you give a similar compliment to them.
The other great thing about using this kind of flattery is that you don’t have to plaster a fake smile on your face. In fact, if someone compliments my presentation with great specificity, I barely even notice their facial expression. Their words are so powerful that even if they’re a bit grumpy when they say them, I’m still going to feel their impact.
So rather than trying to fake every one of your emotions, focus instead on incorporating a bit of flattery. It will positively impact those around you. And while it’s always better to feel so great about your job that you don’t have to fake your emotions at work, when you feel too much negativity creeping in, use flattery to reverse some of those feelings.
Mark Murphy is the author of Truth At Work: The Science Of Delivering Tough Messages, Hiring For Attitude and Hundred Percenters.