A few years ago, a woman political leader was selected by her party as a candidate for contesting from an assembly constituency. She was really thrilled at the prospects of this and was eager to become an MLA soon. So she decided to make her best efforts to win the election. She wanted to asses her probability of winning. She hired an agency to conduct a secret survey among the voters to know their general perceptions about her and how their impression of her can be improved. The agency conducted the survey scientifically and reported the findings to her. She was not at all happy when she knew the opinion of the voters about her.
The secret survey revealed that people did not like her image and behavior. Whenever she presented herself in public places she used to wear very costly and colorful saris and glittering gold ornaments to appear fashionable and attractive. She usually traveled in a luxury car. She visited beauty parlors for makeup before appearing before the public or in visual media. As a result, they never felt that she was one among them.
The survey agency suggested some strategies for improving her public image and increasing the possibility of winning the election. As per their advice, she began to dress in a very simple and modest manner. She abandoned ornaments and makeup. She started traveling in a small old battered car and sometimes in an auto rickshaw for meeting her voters. A sea change was noticed in the opinion of the voters. But she could not win in that election, maybe because she did not get enough time to change the earlier image of the voters about her to the desirable extent.
Impression Management: An art of success.
As we know, in all our elections from panchayat to parliament level, the impression each candidate creates in the voters is a crucial factor in deciding the success. Studies have shown that even in US presidential elections, the impression management of the candidates is a determining factor for success. The candidates seek even professional help to improve their performance through scientific impression management strategies during the three important presidential debates before the election.
Impression management has become very important in every field of our lives, from job interviews to dating. The success of leaders, actors, salespersons, managers, TV anchors, public speakers etc. depends on their ability to create a good impression on others. As Erving Goffman pointed out; ‘We are all just actors trying to control and manage our public image. We act based on how others might see us’. According to Shakespeare; ‘All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players’.
Leadership has become a form of impression management. Political leaders are always trying to imprint a good impression in the minds of people. They deliberately adopt several strategies for impression management. Impression management can be perceived in different ways and there are different uses and intentions for it. Impression management is a powerful tool that most of the people in various fields use to present themselves as acceptable and likable to others.
Impression Management: A new science.
From the very ancient times, impression management tactics have been used by different people during various occasions. However, it was Erving Goffman who coined the word, ‘Impression Management’ and formulated its basic principles, in his famous book; ‘Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, published in 1959. In fact, he made it a science with his research studies, findings, and writings.
Impression management is what you deliberately do with an intention to influence others’ perception about you. It is actually a tactical form of self-expression to impress others. It is not the expression of your real personality; it’s creating a good impression deliberately and artificially in others, with a definite purpose of influencing them. According to Prof. Reggy Hooghiemstra, University of Groningen, Netherlands; ‘Impression management is concerned with the study of how individuals present themselves to others to be perceived favorably by them’. Each individual may adopt a particular strategy for creating the desired impression about him/ her in others. This strategy depends on various factors such as personal motivation, target audience, and situational factors.
According to the latest research findings, you automatically form an impression about a person you meet first, within a short initial span of seven seconds. This will happen even before you greet each other. In the first look, you see her/his dress, shape, size, facial expression, gaze, bodily movements etc. The most important factor that influences you to form the first impression about that person is his/her body language.
The first impression about a person is very important since we form an opinion about him/her based on this. Our responses and further relations will be on the basis of this first impression.
The power of dressing
A person’s dress is the most important single factor that influences the formation of the first impression. In job interviews, your dress can even determine your success or failure.
The way you dress conveys so many things about you. Your attitudes, interests, values, characteristics etc. are reflected in it. Even though, your first image is imprinted initially in the conscious minds of others; it will ultimately be stored in their subconscious minds. Their attitude and behaviors towards you will be based on this subconscious image. In short, you will be liked or disliked by others on the basis of this image.
A luxurious and fashionable dress indicates a person’s strong desire and urges to be in the center stage of attraction and it reflects and projects an extrovert personality. On the contrary, a very simple dress expresses an introvert personality and desire to be ordinary and decent. Those who appear in old-fashioned dress, express their respect to old values and customs. Those who wear too many ornaments reflects their inner desire to show off and exhibit themselves and they may be considered as empty and ostentatious people devoid of self-confidence and feeling of self-worth. Ladies who wear high heeled footwear may be too much concerned about their appearance and may have an inferiority complex about the lack of height.
10 Top Tips for Impression Management
Your success in any field will be depending upon your ability for effective impression management. Remember that an appropriate body language is a key factor in impression management. You can use several strategies for this. The following are the most powerful ten strategies for an effective impression management.
- Understanding your target group or individual. Assess the likes, dislikes and expectations of the group or individual you want to impress upon and design your self-presentation strategy accordingly. Select your dress, and responses considering their likes, taste, customs, and culture.
- Smile heartily. A smile is the most valuable ornament that makes you most attractive and impressive. A smile can instantaneously induce a pleasant mood and friendliness in yourself and the target group.
- Warm and strong handshake: If possible give a warm energetic handshake with a firm grip and eye contract. A handshake is a sign of trust and welcome. According to the famous management Guru and author, Lee Iaccoca, training in the handshake is an important lesson in leadership. But in some cultures, men shaking hands with women is not appreciated. In such occasions, a head node or ‘hello’ or Namaste is enough.
- Be a good Listener: Encourage others to talk and you show sincere interest to listen. Listening is caring and is a powerful strategy to make others like you.
- Eye contract a must: In conversations or meetings with others eye contact is an important strategy to show your interest in their words and presence. If you are avoiding eye contact with a person, your sincerity, interest, and self-confidence may be doubted. You need not stare at his eyes always, but, if you can make eye contact for 70 to 80 percent of the time, it’s ideal and rewarding.
- Be enthusiastic: Show your enthusiasm and energy in your words, actions and movements. Your enthusiasm will energize and impress others around you.
- Avoid negative talk: Don’t talk negative things about yourself or others. As Richard Wiseman, the renowned UK psychologist, professor, and author says; ‘When you say positive things about friends and colleagues, you are seen as a nice person’. Always see the positive side of things and appreciate others promptly and sincerely. Try to radiate a positive energy consistently.
- Beware of your body language: During conversations, be careful about your body movements and postures. Scratching on the nose or head, looking on your watch, keeping your arms across your chest, pulling your earlobe, moving your legs continuously etc. should be avoided since these are indicators of your distress, boredom or lack of interest. Adopt an erect posture with your head up and look straight.
- Show interest and respect for others’ opinions and suggestions and support them openly if agreeable; if not, don’t argue against them publicly.
- Always be friendly and happy with others: Behave just as you would desire others to behave with you.
Impression management is considered a fundamental and universal process involving several psychological, social and cultural factors. People all over the world, use this concept in order to obtain a favorable social outcome and success. This helps a person to manipulate and manage relationships and alter his/her position in the society.
Even though it is criticized that impression management is manipulating the reality and falsifying your true self, it can be practically used as a powerful form of self-presentation to influence the impression of others about you. It can be an effective tool for your success in many fields of life; since it involves the art and science of success.
About the Author:
Dr. JOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:
- ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
- Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
- Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(css,Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
- Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
- Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.
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