“A dash of spice with your words, an ounce of lies from your sweet tongue, and erase all bitterness with carefully crafted compliments. Voila! You have the perfect recipe for being a suck up”. He laughs heartily at his supposed wit.
You can’t really ask people to display their brown tongues when you meet them. It takes careful observation, a conversation, sometimes two, and multiple mental replays of words exchanged with said person to recognise an ass-licker.
We settle into his corner office, and he pulls a tea tray towards him. “The thing about being a professional, is going undetected”, he says, right at the start of the interview.
“People like taking credit for their characteristics, for things that set them apart”, he elaborates as he stirs the tea. “Unfortunately, the burden of this fine art comes with great results, but no recognition. And that can be a bit demotivating at times. Hello Maya! Nice skirt!”. He says to a woman passing his office. Her look of bewilderment goes unnoticed.
How does a kiss-ass deal with the lack of motivation? Does the “art” not require you to feel good about yourself, before you lie to someone else about their qualities? “The invention of the mirror solved all problems for mankind”, he says, with a slight smile on his face, as he darts a quick look at his reflection on the back of a tea-spoon. “And humanity has always found ways to improvise. I, personally, am a huge fan of my front camera. Nikhil!” He yells, almost making the man passing by jump. “6 o’clock! We’re on!”. Being an ass-licker isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes sacrifices. Like attending a vacuum-cleaner convention on a Friday evening. “Nikhil is in HR.” he says. And that’s all the explanation you need.
“It used to take me an hour, sometimes two, to bounce back from a slump. But I hired a guy to make a video of me set to some upbeat music, and now I can do it in three minutes!” Did he pay full price for the service? The question sets him off in guffaws.
Life was ordinary for him before he discovered the wonders of being a kiss-ass. “It started when I was four with visits from my aunt, she would come visit us every holiday season, and all I had to say was ‘Wow, Aunt Leela, how do you always manage to give people exactly what they want?’. The night I said that, she asked my parents for my wish list, and I was the first kid in my class to own a bicycle. I eventually learnt to ride it when I was eleven, after I sweet-talked my hot neighbour into teaching me”. There was no stopping him after that, he says. Additional marks in a math test. Getting his great aunt’s neighbour’s eighty year old sister to include him in her will. Getting extra benefits on his insurance. What is your most recent achievement, I ask, and he spreads his arms around the office we are in. “These are minor victories. The real challenge is maintaining your dignity in the work place, but,” he leans across the desk conspiratorially, “but still managing to ass-lick your superiors with nobody finding out. Especially the ones who’re getting their asses licked”.
“It’s not just about being in the right place at the right time. It’s creating moments with just you and them in it,” He says, as he stares pensively at the window. I think he’s looking at the skyline that is shining with a beautiful orange glow under the setting Sun, till I notice he is practising a set of smiles in his reflection on the glass. He picks one, freezes it, and turns back to me. “Keep track of everything. The boss’ bathroom frequencies. Smoke breaks. Social hangouts. Email them, text them, ambush them on the way to their pee break. Just tell them what they need to hear”.
How do you know the right things to say? “Well that’s what my Masterclass is going to cover! I’m really thrilled about it. Who, when, where and what. I will be covering them all. Don’t forget to sign up!”
We record a quick promo line and are about to exit when he says “This was fun! One of the best interviews I’ve ever done. You really do have a flair for asking the right questions! I would like to pick your brain on the fine art of interviewing. Why don’t we meet on Sunday? At the park for frisbee?” I nod and head out, and glance down at my phone. I don’t remember opening my calendar.