Juliet Dunlop: It’s a fact - flattery will get you everywhere
“YOU look good today. Have you done something to your hair? No, wait a minute, that’s not it, you’ve lost some weight haven’t you? In fact, I hadn’t noticed until now, but you look like that athlete – only younger and better looking!”
Are you putty in my hands yet? The hair, the weight loss even, may well be true, but let’s face it, who outside of the Olympic Park can compete with the abs of Team GB? As honey-coated compliments go, I may have taken things a tiny bit far, but believe it or not, this kind of stuff is supposed to work. At least, that is, if it’s a woman who’s doing the flannelling.
Now bear with me, I know you’re busy and successful and attractive, but according to researchers, flirting can improve a woman’s chances of earning higher wages, or better still, getting a good deal on a car.
Those clever clogs at the University of California, Berkeley, and the London School of Economics, have worked out that feminine charm has its benefits – big, fat economic ones. Somehow, they’ve measured the effects of our womanly wiles in negotiations. However, the flirting must have a selfish intent – women who come across as too friendly or caring, miss their target entirely.
Apparently, the ideal flirt is a cross between Mad Men’s Joan Holloway and the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Madam Secretary, they say, could cut a deal with a single, twinkling blink of an eye. Sworn enemies kissed and made up thanks to her charm.
The experts say it all boils down to technique, one which combines warmth, a hint of flirtation, playfulness and for good measure, a drop of flattery. It may sound like one of Nigella’s recipes, but the women in the study could command a 20 per cent discount on the price of a car.
Forget Camp David, the natural stalking ground for successful female flirts is the Arnold Clark forecourt. Suddenly that shiny, black convertible looks less like a mid-life crisis and more like a turbo-charged bargain. But a word of warning. As you sink into that heated, Italian leather seat, take a long, hard look in the rear-view mirror. That car salesman you charmed is probably mouthing the word “loser” as you speed off into the oncoming traffic.
Even the biggest flirt in the world is surely no match for the true salesman, who is well versed in the art of negotiation, hostage situations and hostile environments. It’s a war folks, and there’s only one winner.
Take my first car. I wanted something silver and fast. My brother guided me into the showroom. The moment the doors slid open, we were flies caught in a second-hand web of overpriced Punto’s and Polo’s. The salesman looked like Frank McAvennie in his “Where’s the burdz?” Spearmint Rhino prime.
He began with all the formality of a tea dance and then, somehow and without warning, progressed to the familiarity of a good-natured drunk on Sauchiehall Street. It was “Mr” this, and “Miss” that, then it changed to James, Jim, Jimmy and finally Jamesie. Before I knew it, I too had been re-christened. Joolsie left clutching the keys to a slow and expensive maroon coloured Golf. Now, at least, I know where I went wrong.
According to the study, I put too much friendliness and not enough flirting into negotiations, and therefore paid more for my car. Chief researcher, Dr Laura Kray, explains this female behaviour: “They are seen as pushovers, as caring solely about satisfying other people’s interests. We found that flirtation, on the other hand, conveys assertiveness and power, from someone who is also concerned about satisfying their own interests.”
One final thought as you contemplate wielding this new power If you are a woman, you are expected to be more like a man. The research is clear – the use of such charm evolved to help women succeed in a male-dominated world. However, come across as too masculine and it’s a thumbs down to that pay rise, but failure to do so makes you appear less competent. Good old charm it seems, suits best.
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