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Impression Management: Developing Your Self-Presentation Skills

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Sam Williams
Sam Williams
Refined Style for Discerning Tastes.

In the age of digital footprints and instant judgments, the art of impression management has become an indispensable skill. Every tweet, LinkedIn post, or casual conversation at a networking event can shape perceptions about us. But how do we ensure that we’re presenting our best selves without losing our authenticity? Let’s delve deeper.


First impressions, as fleeting as they might be, have a lasting impact. Studies suggest that within mere seconds, people form opinions about our character, intelligence, and intentions based solely on our appearance and initial interactions. The advent of social media has amplified this, turning every post or tweet into a potential first impression for countless viewers. However, while managing perceptions is essential in this digital age, it’s equally crucial to remain genuine and not lose our true selves in the process.

Impression Management: Developing Your Self-Presentation Skills

What is Impression Management?

The term “impression management” might sound modern, but its roots trace back to the 1950s when sociologist Erving Goffman introduced the concept. He drew parallels between human interactions and theatrical performances, suggesting that we all play roles, consciously or subconsciously, based on societal expectations. At its core, impression management is about influencing perceptions to ensure they align with our goals, whether personal or professional.

Examples of Impression Management

Consider the character of Roxie Hart from the musical Chicago. To win over the jury, she and her lawyer reinvented her image, making her appear innocent and endearing. Similarly, in our daily lives, we often adjust our behavior to fit specific scenarios. For instance, a manager might adopt a more formal demeanor during board meetings but become approachable and jovial during team lunches. These subtle shifts, whether in attire, tone, or behavior, are all facets of impression management.

The Theory Behind Impression Management

Expanding on Goffman’s theatrical metaphor, our actions are often driven by three primary components: motives, self-presentation, and social context. Our motives might range from wanting to secure a job promotion to seeking social acceptance. These motives then shape our self-presentation, which can be consistent with our self-image or tailored to meet audience expectations. The social context, be it a formal business setting or a casual gathering, further refines our behavior.

Impression Management: Developing Your Self-Presentation Skills

Impression Management in the Workplace

The corporate world is a hotbed for impression management. Organizations meticulously craft their brands, ensuring they resonate with values like innovation, reliability, and social responsibility. On an individual level, employees too engage in impression management. From the attire they choose to the way they communicate in emails, every detail can influence perceptions about their competence, commitment, and fit within the company culture.

7 Impression Management Techniques

Navigating social and professional landscapes requires a toolkit of techniques:

  • Conformity: This involves adhering to established norms. For instance, wearing formal attire to a job interview signals professionalism.
  • Excuses: These are explanations we provide to mitigate negative perceptions. For example, explaining a project delay due to unforeseen challenges.
  • Acclaim: Celebrating someone’s achievements, like acknowledging a colleague’s successful project completion, fosters positive relations.
  • Flattery: Genuine compliments can enhance interpersonal relationships, making interactions smoother.
  • Self-promotion: This involves showcasing one’s achievements. For instance, sharing a completed project’s success metrics during a review.
  • Favors: Helping a colleague with their workload can establish goodwill and positive dynamics.
  • Association: Aligning with reputable individuals or groups can elevate one’s own image. For example, collaborating with a respected industry expert on a project.

Noticing the Practice of Impression Management

While impression management is often subconscious, becoming aware of it can be empowering. Recognizing when we’re adjusting our behavior based on external perceptions allows us to make more informed choices. For instance, understanding why we choose to speak or remain silent during meetings can provide insights into our motives and the impressions we’re trying to create.


Impression management, while an art, is also a science rooted in psychology and sociology. As we traverse our personal and professional journeys, being conscious of the impressions we create and ensuring they mirror our authentic selves becomes paramount. For those keen on refining this skill, professional coaching platforms, like BetterUp, offer insights and guidance to navigate this intricate dance between perception and reality.

By mastering impression management, we not only enhance our interactions but also pave the way for genuine connections, built on trust and authenticity.

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