Jones, E.E., Ingratiation: A Social-Psychological Analysis, 1965, Chapter
This chapter is on the various types of ways people attempt to ingratiate
themselves to others. The three major tactics for ingration are other-enhancement,
opinion conformity, and self-presentation (with giving gifts and rendering
favors a possible fourth).
Basically it means flattery. The peson focuses and often exaggerates the
positive side, and ignores the negative side, with the goal to communicate
the idea that the ingratiator thinks highly of the other person.
This tactic succeeds often because people find it difficult not to like
people who think highly of them.
To succeed (even despite internal dislike of the other person), the ingratiator
must give his compliments credibility. One way is to make sure the reason
for the ingratiation isn't apparent, or the future "favor" needed
isn't obvious or relevant at the time of the compliments.
Another tactic is to tell a third person flattering remarks and have them
"get back" to the target person. Credibility is established in
One must also make sure the compliments are plausible, yet still more lavish
than the target person thinks they deserve. It's best to target a person't
perceived weaknesses for flattery. It's the person's doubts about themselves
that open them up for flattery.
Another effect, the "posivity effect" states that people tend
to like people who seem to approve of them than those who disapprove of
One can also complicate the flattery to make it more credible. In a two-sided
message strategy, one could mix negative comments (that the target is fully
aware of) with flattery at attributes the target is uncertain of. Also
comments that put him relatively higher than others on some criteria may
be more gratifying. Flattery and ingratiation tend to operate in a hinterland
Another tactic is to start with more negative comments to create an "approval
deprivation", then to follow up with more positive comments (risky
but potentially effective).
The "friendly insult" is commonly used by men to suggest admiration.
The insult suggests to the target that they have the attention of the person
and that they have the strength and good nature to survive the attack.
Conformity in Opinion, Judgement, and Behavior
A second tactic is conforming to the various ways of the target person.
The belief is that people like those with apparently similar values. It
can range from simple agreement to mimicry. Unlike verbal flattery, mimicry
and other complex forms of conformity may be more difficult to develop and
sustain, especially when they don't actually conform to your real opinions
Another tactic to ingratiation is to allow the target to "convice"
you of their opinion. Various studies show that either consistent conformity
or conformity preceded by sufficient resistance are both good strategies
at ingratiation. However, it's important not to merely change your opinion
each time you hear the target's opinion -- try to state your opinion (which
you believe is also theirs) before the target states theirs -- it will seem
Another effective method is to disagree on irrelevant topics to establish
some personal independence from the target, and then appear to agree or
switch to agreement on relevant topics.
A third tactic is to present one's own attributes in a manner that the target
would approve and like. The successful ingratiator models themself on the
The ingratiator can either focus on their strengths and virtues, or present
themselves in such a way as to increase the strengths and virtues of the
target person. For either tactic, credibility remains important. Actions
such as humility and modesty can also work. Asking for advice or assistance
can also be gratifying to the target.
One can also revel sensitive personal opinions to convey the flattery of
implied trust and understanding.
The level of status between the ingratiator and target are important. If
the ingratiator is high status, they should stress humility. If they are
lower status, they should stress their positive values.
It is unclear whether performing favors produces attraction merely implies
obligation for reciprocity. However, performing a favor without any real
hope of reciprocity may be a very successful strategy.