It’s very important to be able to suck up to someone.
By this I mean that you hold your own opinion but don’t always feel the need to insist on expressing it.
There are always going to be times when being smart or right is secondary to getting along with people like your boss, your spouse—even your child.
But there is a right way and a wrong way to suck up.
Here is the wrong way:
As in, “I am afraid you’re going to get so upset with me that I’d better pretend to see things your way.”
The fact that you are intimidated will show—and that is technically not sucking up, it’s being afraid. There is a difference. So if you think you’re sucking up because you are afraid (your best gauge for this: your feelings)…congratulations! You just found a fantastic avenue for further self-discovery. After all, we’re all afraid of something.
We all carry feelings about ourselves that are less than stellar (as in: I wish I was more athletic, less of procrastinator, drank less coffee, could become enlightened, etc.) but if sucking up repeatedly puts us in the back seat of life, then we need this reminder: we shouldn’t be ashamed of ourselves. Ever.
I don’t care how ashamed you actually are of yourself, you need to figure that out.
(Another learning opportunity!)
Here is the right way:
Have a righteous end-goal
Like to get along with your spouse even though they distort reality and their fragile ego, inability to admit they are wrong, and all their other weaknesses are exponential. Good for you.
As they say: in sickness and in health. If you know you’re not going to win this one, just say “I’m going to let this go,” and then, pat yourself on the back.
Drum up a goal that’s even better than your righteous end-goal
Take sucking up to your kid who is accusing you of not going to his trumpet concert even though you’ve been to every single frigging concert and driven him to every single lesson for the past seven years.
You say: “I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there,” because you have a deeper goal which is this: hearing your child’s negative emotions will help him feel whole. (And also, because you realize that it’s a compliment to be accused of forgetting how incredibly important you are 24/7.)
Hold a little revenge in your heart
In the business of sucking up, your dark side is your new best friend. If your boss’s unwillingness to listen to you is clearly going to lead him to lose business, make a stupid mistake, or otherwise fail, sucking up can happily include a secret little revenge fantasy.
Your immediate squelching of your own brilliance is therefore softened by the knowledge that this person is going down the tubes, but that you, however, will become great.
Place allies in strategic places
If, after sucking up to your unreasonable boss, you have arranged to have some allies to talk to, you can quickly recover from the indignity by making damn sure somebody knows how great you are. It’s hard to have your strategic suck ups go unrecognized. Life shouldn’t be lonely; make sure somebody’s listening.
Don’t stop at the suck-up
Once you have sucked up with an apology or gentle bow, perhaps admitted that you are, after all, not always perfect, and/or listened to and heard the other person’s (probably ridiculous) perspective, you don’t have to stop at the suck up. Almost immediately after sucking up, if you have genuinely heard the other perspective, you may see the other person soften.
Here’s your chance to state your case. “You know, I do try to make every trumpet concert,” you could say to your ungrateful child, or to your spouse: “I know I shouldn’t go out with my girlfriends again tonight, but I do drive Morty to every single trumpet rehearsal.” There is no reason why sucking up has to include complete and total sucking up, in most cases.
Despite your ability to suck up in all the right ways, it is still hard to do. Sometimes, you have to swallow your pride, even when you know you’re right. As I’ve heard some Buddhists say, you have to “die a little death” each time.
But when you know that you are foregoing your need to be right because you have a worthy end goal—whether it’s to be strategic for your own well-being or to be loving for someone else’s—then your sucking up can become one of the best things you can learn to do.
So do suck up, and do it well. I think you’ll find that the results can really take you places.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Stevon at Flickr