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What is Impression Management

Foram Mehta Apr 20, 2019
Impression management is a sociology theory which states that an individual or an organization should cast an impression on others which is exactly how they want to be thought and perceived about.
The theory of impression management was propounded by a Canadian sociologist and writer named Erving Goffman in 1959. In his book on sociology titled, 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' he has used a dramaturgy approach to portray symbolic interaction/ impression management.
Against Shakespeare's famous quote "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players " Erving Goffman in his book composed that, "All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn't are not easy to specify."
Impression management theory is a sociology and a social psychology theory and also known as 'Self-Presentation' and 'Identity Management' theory. It is a goal-oriented process in which one regulates and controls the information in order to cast an impression on the audience or spectators.
By implementing impression management, people try to frame an impression on others which tallies with what they want to be looked up as. This is also something that we all do unconsciously sometimes. It is not ideally meant to deceive anyone or manipulate, though it can be used illegitimately.
We tend to behave differently in front of our friends, family, kids and acquaintances, consciously or consciously so that they perceive us in a way in which we want them to. We don't let others see the real us, all the time, therefore we tend to wear a mask.
In business terms, impression management is usually associated with creating a first impression on the onlookers/clients. The impression management theory makes it essential that an individual or an organization should cast an impression on others which is congruent to what they want to display.
By accomplishing this, an organization can make their perception on others into a reality. In the management prospect, impression management refers to public relations and professional communication which works on forming an organization's public image.

Ways of Impression Management

According to Jones and Pitman, there are five tactics of impression management that a person may take up.

Ingratiation

In this case, the ingratiator's aim is to be liked by the opposite party. This could be achieved by complementing (which are almost genuine) and flattering others. It is basically done to attract others towards them, so that they act in a manner favorable to you.
One way to do this would be 'Opinion Conformity', which means you'd agree with the other person even though you actually don't agree with them. This is known as impression management using 'other-enhancement'.
Another way of doing this is by 'Self-enhancement'. Self-enhancement would mean self-presentation; the way in which you represent your self or anything to the world by wearing attractive clothes, talking cautiously, etc.

Intimidation

This strategy adapted by a person to get his/her work done by arousing fear in them. Here his motto is to get his work done, take control and get results.

Self- Promotion

In this case, a person is promoting his strengths to prove his competency. This can prove to be a positive point in case of an interview but if your claims do match your abilities, self promotion can prove to be disastrous.

Exemplification

This can be a way of portraying one's moral worthiness. Here, a person tries to prove his sincerity, dedication and responsibility towards his work, in a way that he tries to portray himself as the superior one.

Supplication

Supplication is an act wherein a person tries to gain sympathy and attention by talking about his pains and faults.

Other Ways Are...

Aligning Actions

This is one way of defending yourself against a questionable conduct or when you have performed an act that is derogatory to your image. Here, a person justifies his action indirectly by putting the blame on someone else, in an attempt to cast that he was not responsible for it.

Alter-Casting

Alter-casting is a way of imposing roles to another person, making him/her believe that he/she is actually playing that role and should act accordingly, to be liked or as a favor.
Impression management can be beneficially used. It can be used in order to make people work in your favor, to make others feel better about themselves, to inspire people and to help others cope up.
However, this can also be used in an illicit way by manipulating others and influencing them to do wrong or support you in your wrong deeds. Impression management is not good or vice but it is a psychological strategy that most of us use somewhere to traverse the outcome of an act in your favor.
"When an individual appears in the presence of others, there will usually be some reason for him to mobilize his activity so that it will convey an impression to others which it is in his interests to convey." ~ Erving Goffman