Mother, the computer used on the Nostromo to guide the team in Ridley Scott's "Alien". Copyright 20th Century Studios (The Walt Disney Company)

Image: Mother, the computer used on the Nostromo to guide the team in Ridley Scott’s “Alien”. Copyright 20th Century Studios (The Walt Disney Company)

Beware the “charm offensive”!

Over the course of my career I have seen lots of personal interaction between individuals, teams, executives, vendors. I have seen people treat each other well, horribly, and everything in between. However, one type of interaction throws a red flag in my mind more than any other – the charm offensive. 

What is a “charm offensive”, you may ask?

The “charm offensive” is a concerted, or tactical, effort to gain acceptance, support, or approval by being overly friendly, flattering, or ingratiating. It is often employed in politics, business, and other contexts where individuals or organizations are trying to build relationships or win over others by disarming their marks. The goal of a charm offensive is to create a positive impression, build rapport, and ultimately gain the support of the people or organizations being targeted. 

This can be achieved through actions such as compliments, gifts, humor, or displays of kindness. A charm offensive is often used as a strategy to overcome resistance or objections and can be seen as an alternative to more confrontational approaches.

Why is a “charm offensive” untrustworthy?

A “charm offensive” is considered untrustworthy because it often involves insincere or superficial behavior that is designed to manipulate or deceive others. While a charm offensive may be initially successful in creating a positive impression, it will also almost always will foster suspicion and distrust, as it raises questions about the motives behind the actions.

People may feel that they are being manipulated or that the person or organization behind the charm offensive is not being genuine. Additionally, a charm offensive can create a false sense of rapport, making it difficult to build a truly trustworthy and meaningful relationship in the long term. Ultimately, a charm offensive is a tactic used to achieve a goal at any cost, rather than a genuine effort to build trust and relationships.

How can you counter a “charm offensive”?

To counter a “charm offensive”, you can consider the following steps:

Stay informed. Do your research on the person or organization behind the charm offensive and be aware of their motivations and goals.

Maintain a healthy level of skepticism and don’t be swayed by flattery or overly friendly behavior. Stay critical and look for any inconsistencies or red flags.

Focus on facts and look beyond the flattery and focus on the substance of the arguments or proposals being made. Ask for evidence and verifiable information.

Maintain clear boundaries at all times. Be clear about what you are and are not willing to accept, and do not compromise your values or principles.

Seek outside advice from your trusted colleagues, friends, or experts for their perspectives and insights on the situation.

By following some simple steps, you can maintain your independence, protect yourself from manipulation, and make informed decisions that align with your goals and values. Also, it is important to remember that building trust and relationships requires transparency, honesty, and integrity, so avoid using charm offensive tactics yourself.


In my experience with people that employ these tactics the on of the most effective counter tactics used are kindness and clarification. When someone, whom you just met, is effusive in their praise in order to gain an advantage, ask them for clarification. 

For example, if they state how talented you are and that you are the one person who can deliver for their goals, thank them but ask them for clarification about your previous work that has gotten them all fired up and acting with such advocacy.

If they are an actual advocate, they will be able to explain how your talents, experience, and/or goals fits into their presented plans in detail. However, someone employing a charm offensive will stammer, hem and haw, or push off the clarification of their fawning praise to another party without any real ability to share any substantive details about your value. 

It is nice to hear praise, especially unsolicited respect from new colleagues. However, a little humility will go a long way to safeguard yourself being used as a tool in another person’s plans. 

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