At times the way people perceive us may play an essential role in achieving different set goals. Therefore, we may be motivated to manage our impressions given the positions that we occupy or the social context culture.
This brings us to impression management, a concept which becomes necessary at times. We look at its definition, theory, techniques, and examples to give you a complete look into this phenomenon. Let us delve deeper into this topic.
Impression Management Definition
Also known as self-presentation, it involves the processes by which we control how others perceive us. In as much as we cannot create people’s perceptions, we can influence how they see us and what they think of us. This can either be conscious or subconscious.
It becomes necessary when our public images can influence the attainment of desired goals for which impressions are valuable and relevant. This is a familiar concept in management and is influenced by the roles we occupy, the norms in the social context, individual values, how we think they are currently perceived, our self-concepts, and lastly, our desired and undesired selves.
It can therefore be a complete overhaul of the self or a necessary adjustment. This is an exciting area in psychology, which has been extensively researched. While one line of research is mostly concerned with the factors affecting the impressions we portray, the other brings in self-presentational perspectives that have been broadly applied in conformity, leadership, social influence, gender. Stigmatization, prosocial behavior, among many others.
Why Do We do Impression Management?
You need to understand why impression management is a common phenomenon and why most people in power do it. There are two main motives behind managing the impressions of others. These are broken down into the instrumental and the expressive.
- The Instrumental Motive
This revolves around the desire for increased self-esteem. Most of the time, we care about what others think of us and use that as we go about our everyday business. The result of any instrumental motivation is the gaining of rewards.
Therefore, we may be compelled to manage other people’s perception about us to get something from them, which serve as an instrumental purpose. A good example is a sales attendant who tells a customer that she uses a given ointment and even explains how it has helped her skin to win her trust, sell more, and get a raise.
Such a person may have been trying as many skin ointments as possible and praising them to customers. Apart from seeking a raise, he/ she may be looking for acceptance, more friends, or even respect. All those are instrumental motives.
- Expressive motive
This is quite different from the first one. It is not motivated by any type of reward but rather stems from within. It is mainly influenced by the desire to be in total control of one’s behavior and identity. This may be as a result of social norms, expectations, and restrictions.
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It evolves from people becoming aware of how they are viewed by others and seeking a change in people’s perception. It is by far the most prevalent motivation for impression management.
Impression Management Theory
Impression management theory is founded on the belief that any individual or organization must develop and maintain impressions that are in line with the perceptions they want to portray to the public. This was first conceptualized in 1959 by Erving Goffman and published in ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.’
Others further expanded Erving’s concept in 1967, but the main point remains similar. This theory covers the main ways one comes up with and communicates the congruence between personal and organizational goals and their intention to create public perceptions. This is viable from both a communications and public relations viewpoint.
Impression management aims to enable one to present him/ herself in a way they would like to be perceived by an individual or group they are interacting with. Following this theory, one can say that impression management relies much on the first impression.
This theory believes that perception is reality, which acts as its foundation. Therefore, it revolves around the presumption that what others think about you or your organization serves as a basis for reality from which they come up with real-life ideas and intended behaviors.
While coming up with this theory, Goffman used a dramatical presentation to explain what he meant clearly. He explained the motive for elaborate human performances within a social setting based on a play metaphor. You can establish that his work follows an interactive perspective while greatly emphasizing a qualitative analysis of just how interactive the communication process is.
How does this work? Simple. To the actor, who is shaped by his/ her target audience and the environment, interaction is a performance. The main reason behind the performance is to give the audience a consistent impression that fits the actor’s desired goals.
There also exist differences in responses from the interactional environment, away from the actor’s goals. Whereas some may not respond to the actor’s actions, others actively respond in a bid to reveal positive results.
The differences in response towards the environment and the target audience bring us to self-monitoring, an essential factor in impression management. Other related factors include self-verification and conforming the audience to a person’s self-concept.
This audience can either be real or imaginary. We usually find ourselves trying to manage our impressions subconsciously since these style norms are ingrained in our minds and passed on through socialization.
Keep in mind that your audience might attribute a resonant or discordant image as you try to portray the desired image.
Techniques in Impression Management
Remember that impression management is all about attempting to control and influence people’s impressions of us. We can only achieve this through given techniques. You will also notice that we use most of these in our daily interactions and lives, be it at home, work, or on different occasions.
Let’s take a look at these:
This revolves around conforming. It means being accepted by the people around us or our surroundings. The main aim of conformity is to allow us to enjoy our surroundings or interactions with the people around us.
This is a critical technique usually applied by companies to ensure that employees come together and channel their efforts on a given project. They ensure that employees feel accepted and comfortable and thus enjoy their surroundings and general interaction.
This is the commonest impression management technique in professional settings, and it works like magic, just as you may have guessed.
This may sound odd, but it is viable. It is an impression management technique that relies on making excuses. Here, a person explains an adverse or unexpected event trying to clear his/ her name and blame other factors, be it internal or external.
How is making excuses an impression management technique? Excuses are mainly made to avoid a severe punishment or judgment and maintain other people’s impression of us. Nobody wants to look incompetent, and therefore, we find a way of shifting the blame.
Excuses are common, both in our everyday lives or professional settings. You must have come up with a reason to arrive late in a meeting or fail to meet a given deadline.
Acclamation stems from being sure that we have done our part perfectly. It usually takes the route of meeting your audience proudly, knowing that you did the job correctly. It, therefore, happens when we have a sense of excellence about ourselves.
Acclaiming is common in professional settings or even the business world. You must have seen how a project team member who has been praised by the project manager because of a good idea or initiative behave. This usually has a long-term goal: to encourage the other employees to work harder and achieve better results.
Do you know flattery is an impression management technique? Well, if you didn’t, here is something for you. Flattery revolves around over complementing a person to appear perceptive or likable. This ranges from his/ her looks, charisma, attitude, and any other attribute that can make one feel good about themselves.
It has stood the test of time for being a powerful social technique for managing other people’s impressions and increasing our social attractiveness. We can do this by saying flattering statements, praises, or compliments.
This type of impression management technique is most prevalent in the online marketing space.
This is one of the most familiar impression management techniques. It revolves around bringing out one’s best characters or downplaying the shortcomings. This technique, therefore, draws more attention to one’s achievements while shadowing his/ her failures.
It is one of the most ordinary phenomena in the business world and is employed by CEOs worldwide. You must have heard someone claiming to have done something in a relatively shorter time when others have taken ages to get the same work done.
Do you know that giving favors is an impression management technique? Remember, impression management is all about influencing other people’s perception of us, which favors do. This is common in both the business world and in our everyday life.
Giving favors involves doing something nice for people to influence them to accept us or receive approval for them. It is, therefore, one of the easiest ways of influencing others to like us. You must have done something for someone to change how they see you. Well, that was a favor.
The last impression management technique that is commonly used is association. In simple terms, association is mostly concerned with protecting one’s image by managing information regarding people and things with which one is associated.
It is a relatively precise impression management technique and can be applied in interviews, conversations, dinner settings, or even high-end business negotiations. It may also mean collaborating with others to strengthen and protect each other. In this case, the main subjects are the information and image of the people in the given association.
These seven techniques have been tried and tested. They are commonly used in work settings and negotiations. You can also use them in day-to-day activities. Other tactics that people use to manipulate perception include lying or gossiping, intimidation, boasting, dressing, supplication, and behavioral matching. However, they are generally frowned upon in different settings.
Impression Management Strategies
- Demotion-preventive strategy
This is applied when either trying to stay out of trouble or lessen the impact or responsibility of an adverse event. Individuals try to justify their actions.
- Promotion-enhancing strategy
This occurs when an individual is trying to appear much better and therefore increase his/ her responsibility for a positive income. It mainly happens when a person feels that his/ her outcomes have not been acknowledged.
Impression Management Examples
We can see one of the most familiar examples of impression management in business through different advertising strategies. All the promotional policies of these organizations are dedicated to encouraging consumer attention and drawing them to buy a given product.
Most of these companies apply self-promotion to win the audience. A soft drink company emphasizes the unique taste of their product but sidelines the caffeine or sugar content. Therefore, companies focus on the brighter side of their products while marketing to win buyer’s perceptions.
A typical example can also be seen at home, away from the business world. This will be more relatable. There exists a difference in the way people behave at home and in the outside world. We prefer to lay bare when with our families with zero filters.
We will have all our good and evil sides, strengths, and shortcoming exposed in the company of our family members and at the comfort of our home. However, when in professional or social settings, we are always at our best and exude proper behavior to win people’s impressions and paint a good picture. That’s a classic example of impression management that should not escape you.
Impression management is a common phenomenon in our everyday life. We have all tried to influence other people’s perceptions of us at one point. Therefore, do not fail to use the techniques that we have provided on your next attempt.