Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction Skills

By John O. Greene; Brant R. Burleson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT: GOALS,
STRATEGIES, AND SKILLS
Sandra Metts
Department of Communication, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois
Erica Grohskopf
Cadence Implementation, Epic Systems Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin

It is difficult to imagine any social, professional, or public context in which people do not engage in some level of impression management. From the most mundane decision of what to wear on a given day to enacting scripted routines for exiting a boring conversation, people display awareness that their verbal and nonverbal actions are open to scrutiny by other people. Although these inconsequential enactments may not be as strategically orchestrated as a formal presentation before an audience or as newsworthy as the efforts of a politician to publicly reframe a moral lapse, they are no less indicative of the central role played by impressions in the process of social organizing. Other than walking upright and producing speech, there are few qualities so manifestly human as impression management.

When skillfully performed, impression management elicits favorable attributions that in turn promote satisfying interactions, social affiliation, and tangible rewards in the form of job success and promotion. Indeed, some scholars suggest that the willingness to moderate personal expression in response to social constraints provided an evolutionary advantage for early human beings (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Poorly equipped for survival as isolated individuals, early humans found great advantage when organized into social units. Although social integration may no longer be necessary for survival, those who are integrated tend to prosper in ways not characteristic of those who are socially isolated.

The purpose of this chapter is to synthesize the large and increasingly sophisticated body of theoretical and empirical research that informs our understanding of the skills involved in managing impressions. We organize this information into four general sections to address the concerns of interest. In the first section, we provide an overview of the scholarly literature on impression management, reviewing three analytic and conceptual traditions that fall within that rubric. We close this introductory section with a clarification of the terms to be used in the remaining pages of the chapter. In the second section, we introduce four higher order goals toward

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