The article was last updated by Samantha Choi on February 9, 2024.

Impression management is a crucial aspect of human interaction that can influence our relationships, career opportunities, and overall success. In psychology, impression management refers to the strategies individuals use to control how others perceive them.

From self-presentation to self-promotion, there are various types of impression management techniques people employ in different settings, whether it be social interactions, professional environments, or online platforms. This raises ethical concerns regarding deception, manipulation, and authenticity.

To enhance your impression management skills, focusing on self-awareness, adaptability, empathy, and effective communication is key. Join us as we explore the intricacies of impression management and its impact on our lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Impression management refers to the conscious or unconscious effort to control how others perceive us.
  • It is important as it enables individuals to effectively navigate social interactions and achieve desired outcomes in personal and professional settings.
  • The types of impression management include self-presentation, ingratiation, intimidation, supplication, and self-promotion, which are often used in social interactions, professional settings, and online platforms.
  • What Is Impression Management?

    Impression management, as theorized by Erving Goffman, refers to the process through which individuals regulate and control their self-presentation in social interactions to convey a specific image or identity.

    This concept is deeply rooted in Goffman’s symbolic interactionism, where individuals are seen as actors on a social stage, strategically crafting performances to influence how others perceive them. By strategically managing the impressions they give off, individuals seek to maintain face and uphold social norms. This not only impacts their behavior but also shapes their self-concept and influences the dynamics of social interactions. Through impression management, individuals balance authenticity and social expectations, navigating the complexities of social life.

    Why Is Impression Management Important?

    Understanding the significance of impression management is crucial as it influences how individuals shape their self-concept, navigate social interactions, and conform to societal norms within the symbolic interactionist perspective.

    Impression management refers to the conscious or subconscious efforts individuals make to control how others perceive them. This process involves the strategic presentation of oneself to create a desired image that aligns with personal goals, values, and the expectations of others. By actively managing impressions, individuals can shape not only how others view them but also how they view themselves, impacting self-esteem and confidence. In social interactions, impression management guides behaviors, language use, and nonverbal cues in order to convey specific messages and maintain social harmony.

    What Are The Types Of Impression Management?

    Impression management manifests in various forms, including self-presentation, ingratiation, intimidation, supplication, and self-promotion, each serving distinct functions in influencing social perceptions.

    The practice of self-presentation involves individuals strategically portraying themselves in a particular way to create a favorable impression among their peers or audience. This can include showcasing one’s strengths, achievements, and positive attributes while downplaying weaknesses.

    On the other hand, ingratiation revolves around building rapport and gaining favor with others through flattery, compliments, or other means of enhancing likability. It often aims to strengthen social bonds and cultivate positive relationships.

    Understanding these tactics is crucial in deciphering how individuals navigate various social interactions and construct their desired identities based on the impressions they seek to convey.


    Self-presentation involves strategic efforts by individuals to control how they are perceived by others, impacting areas such as university students’ interactions, corporate communication dynamics, and adherence to social norms.

    Understanding self-presentation is vital as it influences the formation of individuals’ self-image and shapes their behaviors in diverse settings. Self-image is intricately linked with how one presents themselves to the world, affecting not only personal satisfaction but also interpersonal relationships.

    University students often navigate complex social environments where effective self-presentation can enhance their social integration and academic success. In corporate settings, the skill of self-presentation can determine career progression and organizational influence, underscoring its significance in professional growth and success.


    Ingratiation involves the strategic use of flattery or conformity to gain favor or approval in social interactions, affecting aspects of self-concept, psychological health, and adherence to social norms.

    By employing ingratiation techniques, individuals seek to create a favorable impression on others, often by praising and aligning themselves with the beliefs or preferences of those they wish to influence. This can lead to a heightened sense of self-worth as reciprocated approval reinforces their own positive self-image, contributing to overall psychological well-being.

    The constant need for validation through such behavior may also result in a distorted self-perception and a tendency to conform excessively to societal expectations, potentially compromising one’s authenticity and autonomy.


    Intimidation tactics in impression management involve exerting control or dominance through fear or coercion, often associated with Machiavellianism and dark personality traits that shape one’s desired identity and social image.

    Individuals who employ intimidation as a strategic approach are often driven by the need to establish power dynamics and foster compliance among their peers or subordinates. By instilling a sense of fear or dread, they aim to project an aura of authority and assertiveness, influencing the behaviors and reactions of those around them.

    Intimidation can be a double-edged sword, as it may yield short-term results in terms of obedience or submission, but in the long run, it can lead to resentment, distrust, and even resistance from others.


    Supplication involves presenting oneself as submissive or inferior to elicit sympathy or assistance, impacting perceptions of target value, self-esteem, and social worth, often aligning with the Yerkes-Dodson law.

    Supplication can be a strategic behavior used to navigate social interactions, influencing how others perceive an individual’s competence and worth in a given situation.

    By appearing vulnerable or helpless, individuals engaging in supplication may hope to evoke compassion, goodwill, and support from those around them.

    This approach in impression management can be particularly effective in situations where the power dynamics are skewed, and the supplicant seeks to balance the scales through humility and deference.


    Self-promotion tactics involve actively highlighting one’s strengths, achievements, or positive attributes to enhance their desired identity, social value, and face in social interactions, as theorized by Edward E. Jones.

    This strategic approach in impression management influences how individuals are perceived by others and shapes their social reputation. By strategically showcasing their accomplishments and competencies, individuals can project a certain image designed to elicit admiration, respect, and validation from their social circle. Self-promotion plays a pivotal role in shaping one’s social standing and can influence the opportunities and relationships that an individual can attract.

    How Do People Use Impression Management?

    Individuals employ various impression management techniques in social interactions to regulate behaviors, enhance self-esteem, and navigate societal norms for effective communication and desired outcomes.

    Behavior modification is a key aspect of impression management, as individuals often adjust their actions and responses to align with the expectations of others. This can involve controlling emotions, displaying certain gestures, or even changing speech patterns.

    Self-esteem enhancement plays a crucial role in impression management as well, as individuals strive to present themselves in a positive light to boost their confidence and perception by others. Adherence to social norms is another critical element, where individuals conform to established standards and values to be accepted and respected in various social contexts.

    In Social Interactions

    In social interactions, individuals engage in impression management to uphold their social value and face, akin to actors performing roles on a social stage within the dramaturgical analogy.

    This concept originates from sociologist Erving Goffman, who likened human behavior to theatrical performances, where individuals strategically craft a desired image to influence the perceptions of others. By controlling the information they reveal and the behaviors they exhibit, people shape how they are perceived by their audience. This can involve strategic self-presentation, selective disclosure of information, and the use of nonverbal cues to convey desired impressions. Face-saving behaviors, such as avoiding embarrassment or maintaining dignity in social situations, are key components of impression management.

    In Professional Settings

    Impression management is crucial in professional settings where individuals navigate role constraints, adhere to social norms, and shape their self-concept within the symbolic interactionist perspective to achieve desired outcomes.

    Through impression management, individuals strategically present themselves to influence how they are perceived by others in workplace scenarios. This can involve aspects such as verbal communication, non-verbal cues, attire choices, and overall demeanor to construct a favorable image. By recognizing and conforming to societal expectations and organizational norms, professionals can enhance their credibility and establish trust with colleagues and superiors.

    The alignment between one’s self-perception and the projected image plays a pivotal role in maintaining authenticity and consistency in interactions, ultimately shaping professional relationships and career advancement. Networking, job interviews, client interactions, and team collaborations are arenas where effective impression management can yield substantial benefits, allowing individuals to showcase their competencies and character.

    In Online Platforms

    On online platforms like PlentyOfFish, individuals engage in impression management to enhance their target value and social image, reflecting the principles of social psychology in virtual social interactions.

    Impression management, a term coined by sociologist Erving Goffman, refers to the conscious or subconscious strategies individuals employ to control how others perceive them. In the context of online dating platforms like PlentyOfFish, users meticulously curate their profiles, photos, and interactions to present a desirable image to potential partners. This process involves strategic self-presentation and the careful selection of information to create a positive impression.

    Influenced by social psychology theories, such as self-presentation theory and social identity theory, users on PlentyOfFish navigate the virtual landscape by managing their online identities to align with their desired target values. This conscious effort to present oneself in a favorable light can impact not only how others perceive them but also their own self-esteem and confidence in virtual interactions.

    What Are The Ethical Implications Of Impression Management?

    The ethical dimensions of impression management involve considerations of deception, manipulation, and authenticity in social interactions, reflecting broader discussions on ethical behavior within the realm of psychology and social interaction.

    Deception in impression management raises questions about the moral boundaries individuals are willing to cross in order to create favorable perceptions. It challenges the ethical fabric of social interactions, emphasizing the importance of honesty and transparency in communication.

    On the other hand, manipulation introduces complexities in the dynamics of relationships, as it involves strategic maneuvers to influence others’ perceptions. Authenticity, as a core aspect of ethical behavior, pertains to the genuineness and consistency of one’s presentation, highlighting the significance of being true to oneself in various social contexts.


    Deception in impression management involves the intentional misrepresentation of information or self-presentation strategies in social interactions, challenging norms of honesty and authenticity.

    Individuals often resort to deception as a mechanism to shape how others perceive them, aiming to create favorable impressions or avoid negative judgments. This strategic manipulation of information is prevalent across various contexts, from personal relationships to professional settings, where individuals may exaggerate achievements, withhold crucial details, or even fabricate stories to craft a desired image.

    Such deceptive practices not only influence how others perceive an individual but also impact social behaviors by fostering a culture of mistrust and skepticism. It raises questions about the ethical boundaries of impression management and the delicate balance between projecting a desirable image and maintaining genuine authenticity.


    Manipulation as an aspect of impression management involves strategic behaviors aimed at influencing others’ perceptions or actions in social interactions, raising ethical questions regarding the use of power and coercion.

    Within social contexts, individuals often engage in manipulative tactics to shape the way others see them or to achieve desired outcomes. This can be seen in various scenarios, such as in the workplace, relationships, or even in public settings. Manipulation can manifest through subtle gestures, selective information sharing, or even outright deceit to control the narrative and influence the opinions of others.


    Authenticity in impression management pertains to the alignment between one’s self-concept, social image, and adherence to societal norms, influencing psychological health and interpersonal relationships.

    When individuals present authentic versions of themselves to others, it fosters a sense of integrity and congruence between their inner beliefs and outer expressions. This congruence not only enhances self-perception but also builds trust in social interactions.

    On the contrary, when people engage in impression management that deviates from their true self, it can lead to feelings of dissonance, alienation, and a fragmented social identity. This discrepancy between the projected image and actual self may result in negative emotional consequences, such as anxiety, self-doubt, or even depression.

    How Can One Improve Their Impression Management Skills?

    Enhancing impression management skills involves cultivating self-awareness, fostering adaptability, nurturing empathy, and honing effective communication strategies to navigate diverse social contexts and interactions effectively.

    Self-awareness plays a crucial role in impression management as it helps an individual understand their own emotions, behavior, and impact on others. By being aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and triggers, one can tailor their responses and actions to create a positive image.

    Adaptability is another key aspect, allowing individuals to adjust their behavior and communication style based on the specific social setting or audience. This flexibility demonstrates a willingness to connect and engage with others in a manner that aligns with their needs.

    Empathy is a powerful tool in impression management, enabling one to not only understand others’ perspectives but also respond with sensitivity and understanding. Acknowledging and validating others’ emotions helps in building trust and rapport.

    Effective communication, encompassing both verbal and nonverbal cues, is essential for conveying one’s intentions clearly and building meaningful connections. Refining communication skills, such as active listening and clarity in expression, enhances one’s ability to influence perceptions and outcomes in social interactions.


    Self-awareness plays a pivotal role in impression management by promoting insight into one’s behaviors, self-concept, and social value, enabling individuals to align their self-presentation strategies with their authentic selves.

    By being self-aware, individuals can adapt their behavior to different social situations, demonstrating emotional intelligence and empathy towards others. This heightened awareness allows people to understand how their actions and words impact those around them, leading to more positive and authentic interactions.

    Self-awareness also contributes to a stronger sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, as individuals who are in tune with their thoughts and emotions are better equipped to handle criticism and feedback constructively, without feeling threatened or defensive.

    To enhance self-awareness in social settings, practicing mindfulness techniques such as self-reflection and active listening can be beneficial. Engaging in regular self-assessment exercises and seeking feedback from trusted individuals can also aid in developing a deeper understanding of oneself and how one is perceived by others.


    Adaptability in impression management involves the capacity to adjust behaviors, communication styles, and self-presentations to meet the demands of diverse social interactions, roles, and norms effectively.

    Such adaptability plays a crucial role in how individuals are perceived and how they navigate various situations. It enables individuals to tailor their responses and expressions to different environments, fostering better connections and understanding with others.

    Adapting to different contexts can be challenging, as it requires a high level of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Being able to adjust one’s behavior while maintaining authenticity is key to successfully managing impressions in different social settings.


    Empathy plays a key role in impression management by fostering genuine connections, understanding others’ perspectives, and enhancing perceptions of social value and face in interpersonal interactions.

    Empathy acts as a cornerstone in navigating social dynamics and influencing how individuals are perceived and received by others. It serves as a powerful tool for building trust, strengthening relationships, and fostering collaboration in various personal and professional settings. By demonstrating understanding and sensitivity towards others’ emotions and experiences, individuals can create a positive impression and cultivate a sense of rapport and mutual respect.

    Empathy also plays a crucial role in the preservation of face during conflict resolution or challenging conversations. By empathizing with others, individuals can communicate their viewpoints effectively, showing respect for differing opinions and maintaining harmony in interactions.

    Effective Communication

    Mastering effective communication is essential for impression management, as it enhances self-presentation, promotes successful social interactions, and facilitates clear messaging in corporate communication settings.

    Effective communication skills serve as a powerful tool in shaping how individuals are perceived by others. By articulating thoughts clearly, individuals can create a favorable image of themselves, boosting their confidence and credibility.

    In social interactions, effective communication fosters meaningful connections and builds rapport. Regarding corporate communication, clear and concise messaging is crucial for conveying ideas, instructions, and feedback efficiently.

    Developing active listening skills, honing non-verbal communication cues, and adapting communication style to different contexts are key strategies for enhancing impression management through effective communication.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is impression management in psychology?

    Impression management in psychology refers to the process of consciously or unconsciously controlling how one is perceived by others. It involves presenting oneself in a way that is consistent with one’s desired image or identity.

    Why is understanding impression management important in psychology?

    Understanding impression management can help individuals to navigate social interactions more effectively, improve their self-presentation skills, and manage their reputation and image within their social groups.

    What are the different types of impression management?

    There are three main types of impression management: self-presentation, other-presentation, and audience management. Self-presentation involves managing one’s own image, while other-presentation involves managing the image of others. Audience management is the process of adapting one’s behavior to fit the expectations of a specific audience.

    How does impression management relate to self-esteem?

    Impression management can be influenced by an individual’s self-esteem. Those with high self-esteem may be more confident and therefore more successful at presenting themselves in a positive light. On the other hand, those with low self-esteem may use impression management as a way to compensate for their insecurities.

    Can impression management be used for manipulative purposes?

    Yes, impression management can be used manipulatively in order to deceive or manipulate others. This is often seen in individuals with narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies, who may use impression management to manipulate others for personal gain or to avoid consequences.

    How can understanding impression management help in professional settings?

    In professional settings, impression management can be a useful tool for building and maintaining a positive reputation, creating a good first impression during job interviews, and effectively communicating with colleagues and superiors. It can also help individuals to navigate power dynamics and politics within the workplace.

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