Social aspects of impression management. By Mohammad Akmal Pasha


‘If you love me, show me’, said the English poet John Donne. Rephrase these words: if you have goodness, show me. Of love, however, so often this is presumed that if you love in its truest sense, you need not bother whether it is being shown as well or not. But at times human judgment in the hands of its frailty tends to misperceive the ‘unrepresentative or representative expressions’ and the truest love resting in the soft corner of the lover’s heart is rendered cornered. The corollary here would be that love must be expressed in a socially acceptable manner keeping in view the socially approved manner and timing. Even if the love does not exist in the heart, an expression to the contrary to this fact would help create good impression. Here, a cynical critique may choose to name this act as ‘hypocrisy’; however the degree and purity of the impression manager would be the deciding factor in this regard. Yet, of hypocrisy; the matter singularly pertains to God and let the Master and the slave mutually crystallize it, be it their heart-to-heart rendezvous, or vociferous monologue or finally the open negotiations on the Day of Judgment. Categorically, one thing is certain that the person for whom a good impression is meant would be pleased, both at heart and about the impression manager.
To begin with, as someone has defined: ‘impression management is a goal-directed, conscious or unconscious attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event; by regulating and controlling information in social interaction.’ Put in a different phraseology, impression management is the process by which people attempt to control or manipulate the reactions of others to images of themselves or their ideas. So what entails impression management? Simply, the way you carry yourself, the outlook, demeanor, conversation, socialization, job-performance, relationship management, helpfulness and altruism etc. Add to it the casual settings that is; behaving in jest during fun-making, gossiping and mocking if it fits well with the situation and befits the person in question. Some gurus capsulate the concept of impression management in three words, ‘just be yourself’. But question is if ‘yourself’ is ‘socially’ questionable at the first place then being ‘yourself’ would be doubly fatal. Therefore, ‘yourself’ and not the your ‘self’ has to be tailored in accordance with the socially acceptable settings, where the social intelligence would be much useful that could help one read and interpret social signals, since the people interfaced anywhere after-all come from the same society. Perhaps this is the area where most of the individuals unfortunately under-yield, or under-present the reason is that such innocent souls either have not been adequately social in their past or regrettably have not been able to discern, understand, interpret and retain such signals. The remedy for them is to hasten to learn such skills or consultant some expert or hire services of some professional consultant in this regard.
Until then, here are a few tactics for impressive impression management: maintain self-descriptions (personal characteristics), retain conformity (agree with others for approval of your deeds), keep accounts (give proper excuses, justifications for misdeeds), offer apologies (admit and ask forgiveness for mischiefs), acclaim (take credit for good deeds), exercise flattery (say nice but true things tactfully that make yourself likable), and offer favors (do something nice for others). Further, instead of lip-service one should possess value-adding, context-related talents, qualifications & potential, believe that past is the best predictor of future success (maintain good present that would become past in near future), think about tasks objectively (in terms of quantity, scope, difficulty, complexity, trust, initiative and results) be it any sort of social setup.
In general, perception is based on integrity, manners, personality, appearance, communication, thrill and ingratiation (euphemizing to bring the opponent in good mood). This breeds social acceptability which leads to socio-strategic alliances that emerge from mutual respect, openness, trust and mutual benefit. Such alliances help us gain a set of powers like, social power (ability to get things done with human, informational and material resources), socialized power (directed at helping others), and personalized power (directed at helping oneself). These powers are in contrast with orthodox powers which include reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power (charisma).
While dealing with socio-strategic stances, political tactics would matter a lot. These include attacking or blaming others, using information as a political tool, creating a favorable image, developing a base of support, praising others (ingratiation), forming power coalitions with strong allies, associating with influential people and finally creating obligations (reciprocity). Nevertheless, three types of focus are material with respect to impression management in the job settings: job-focus (manipulating information about one’s performance), supervisor-focus (praising and doing favors for one’s supervisor), and self-focus (presenting oneself as a polite and nice person).
In a nutshell, a moderate approach would be the best policy, for excess of any thing is bad. Admitting and posing to be just a human would be more appealing than showcasing oneself to be Hercules or contracting oneself to less than that. Especially, if you pose Hercules, then Herculean tasks will be manoeuvred against you. Whatsoever, one should always be at one’s toes in keeping a fair impression, good reputation, for reputation once lost would be almost impossible to regain. ‘Reputation, reputation, reputation, I have lost my reputation and what is left is bestial.’ (William Shakespeare)

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