short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, December 3, 2011


Lewis Lapham (Lapham's Rules of Influence) advises the profuse use of flattery. He writes that "flattery is comparable to suntan lotion or ski wax. It cannot be too often or too recklessly applied."

My two handicapped children, Noelle and Doah, know this. As children and adults, unlike what one might expect, they have been quite popular, among others reasons, because they routinely use flattery.

For exmaple, Doah, when needing help, will often address a nearby woman, "Excuse me, pretty lady. You help me, please?" What woman does not like to be called pretty?

And who would not feel good about helping someone clearly disabled who shows appreciation through more flattery by saying, for example, "Thank you. You're a nice person. I like you."

Likewise, Noelle once got me out of a traffic ticket when I accidentally drove through a stop sign. A four-year-old at the time, she was clearly thrilled at the sight of the police officer who pulled me over. While I searched for the car registration, she gushed flattery at him, telling him how wonderful she thought policemen were, how kind, and how helpful. He told me to forget the registration, that he would give me only a warning because he did not want my daughter not to like policemen.

Although she became more sophisticated about how she words things, Noelle has continued to use flattery and to be treated with warmth by people with whom she interacts. For example, she had a series of negative experiences at what I shall call Hospital A in Washington and ultimately we transferred her to Georgetown University Hospital, where she had a series of positive experiences. Near the beginning of her treatment there, she had to be hospitalized. Unfortunately, no beds were immediately available, so the staff spread out a blanket on the floor of her room. The clinic director, embarrassed by this situation, stayed with Noelle two hours until a bed was found. She apologized to Noelle several times.

Noelle's response was, "Hey, I'd rather be on the floor here than in the softest bed at Hospital A." Obviously, that piece of flattery made Noelle a favorite patient for the entire time she was at Georgetown University Hospital.

We all like to hear other people say good things about us. They, too, like to hear good things said about them. Flattery often works where other means of motivation fail.

My sister, Danielle, points out that when flattery is sincere, there are many ways to get the good intentions to multiply. She cites the example of her husband, Bill, who has often elicited support and astounding service by first complimenting the employee sincerely with supporting details and then going on to report the employee's exceptional service and performance to the employee's supervisor, attributing the employee's attitude and performance to the supervisor's skill in management.

"By the end of the conversation," she wrote to me, "the supervisor and supervisee are dancing around Bill to see that everything goes smoothly."

So, slather the flattery wherever it is deserved!


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.

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About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.