Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

It’s the new heroin for the Slackoisie, according to a new study at Ohio State University in conjunction with Brookhaven National Laboratory, as described in an article at PyschCentral.  It’s not just that they want it, but that they need it.  Need it more than food.  Need it more than sex. Need it more than anything else.


Ohio State University scientists found that college students valued boosts to their self-esteem more than any other pleasant activity they were asked about, including sex, favorite foods, drinking alcohol, seeing a best friend or receiving a paycheck.


“It is somewhat surprising how this desire to feel worthy and valuable trumps almost any other pleasant activity you can imagine,” said Brad Bushman, Ph.D., lead author of the research.


Note that final comparison, receiving a paycheck, the validation one gets for performing one of the most dreaded and least desirable of activities, work.  Forget all those gurus who sell their lectures about how to make the Slackoisie love you.  They were wrong before and they are still wrong now.  They will never love you. They will never care about your clients.  Want to venture a guess what they care about?
“It wouldn’t be correct to say that the study participants were addicted to self-esteem,” Bushman said.

“But they were closer to being addicted to self-esteem than they were to being addicted to any other activity we studied.”


We’ve been told not to smoke or drink during pregnancy for excellent medical reasons.  But what about playing those Baby Einstein DVDs, as if it were that simple?  Parents don’t play them for the sake of the baby (though they fool themselves into believing it), but for their own sake, wanting their spawn to be the bestest ever baby.  From womb onward, they need that validation.

The product of their being reared with the expectation that they will have it all (or as Burger King found would sell more fast food, have it your way) is that they believed it.  I know, crazy, right?


Findings showed that people with a strong sense of entitlement were the ones who were most likely to “want” the good things in life – including boosts to their self-esteem – even more than they actually “like” them.

“Entitled people want all the good things in life, even if they don’t particularly like them,” Bushman said. “Of course, there’s no problem with enjoying good things, but it is not healthy to want them more than you like them.”

More than unhealthy, it produces miserable, disaffected, unmotivated, whining lawyers.  Having gotten the trophy for being the “final winner” (as opposed to what they really were, the last place loser) confused them such that now, as they show up at an office with their shiny shoes, shiny cheeks, shiny iPhone, they can’t fathom why their name isn’t on the firm letterhead and they aren’t seated in the corner office.  More to the point, the same writing that earned them an A- in law school, the very bottom of the curve, isn’t receiving the oohs and aahs it did from their kvelling parents and lawprofs. 

Always be constructive in your criticism, and always, but always, lead off with a positive before saying anything that could be construed as even slightly critical.  That’s pedagogy today.  Parenting is far more restrictive, since nothing is ever bad, wrong or sucks, and nobody ever loses.



“American society seems to believe that self-esteem is the cure all for every social ill, from bad grades to teen pregnancies to violence,” he said. “But there has been no evidence that boosting self-esteem actually helps with these problems. We may be too focused on increasing self-esteem.”


Study co-author Crocker added, “The problem isn’t with having high self-esteem; it’s how much people are driven to boost their self-esteem. When people highly value self-esteem, they may avoid doing things such as acknowledging a wrong they did.


In other words, the same drive for self-esteem precludes them from recognizing when they don’t deserve a balloon.  To the Slackoisie, they always deserve a balloon.  Their work is always wonderful, no matter whether they phone it in (but I do my best work in my pajamas at two in the morning) or the out of touch curmudgeon partner tells them they really can’t use hashtags in appellate briefs.

And now, the requisite caveat:  Fortunately, not all parents failed miserably in raising their little darlings. Some told them they have to work for the things they want.  Some explained that life isn’t always fair, and doesn’t always give them the best of everything.  Some even informed Muffy and Buffy that they lost the race and the cute little trophy meant nothing. 

Not all Millennials are Slackoisie.  More importantly, even if you are, you have the ability to change any time you want.  You can even do it this very moment, realizing that the planets don’t revolve around you and that the reason you’re sitting on the couch in your parents basement eating Cheetos and playing Mortal Kombat isn’t because the world has yet to recognize that you really are Baby Einstein.  You can get to work anytime you want.  Try self-respect in place of self-esteem, and you can still have that future you were promised.

Or you can sit there craving the next unearned compliment. Your choice.

H/T Stephanie West Allen

7 thoughts on “Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

  1. SHG

    Close, but no cigar.  It’s a little known fact that my butt was amputated after the tragic kiln explosion of ’79.

  2. Alex Bunin

    One of the problems I had teaching law school was that I was too affected by the students’ self-esteem issues. They took everything personally, and I ended up being far too polite and accomodating, particularly about grades.

  3. George Wallace

    Erm. . . “complement”? The Slackoisie are plenty loose about spelling and usage, but we know that you can occasionally do better.

    P.S., I am asserting my right of fair use in reproducing your correctly spelled, but incorrectly chosen, word in its entirety, for purposes of criticism and comment, in this comment.

  4. SHG

    This is foremost “secret” complaints I hear from lawprofs, especially those who have yet to attain tenure and are scared to death of student evaluations. They are so afraid of telling a student they’re clueless, or worse yet, that they don’t have what it takes to be a lawyer that they spin every comment to appear as if junior is the next Clarence Darrow, if only he tried just a bit harder.

    Great preparation for when the judge smacks junior upside the head and some poor guys life hangs in the balance.  I’ve written about this at length, and specifically as it applies to legal education.  The kids tell me that I just don’t get it.

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