Impression management is used to give us social control over people we wish to control and by this means control of groups and organizations. Proper use impression management is the means to gain power. Impression management is the use of nonverbal communication to meet specific impression management goals. We are creating a perceived image of ourselves in the minds of others, by managing perceptions. This is a form of persuasion. What they think we are, how smart we are, the power we hold over them. We use this to control the behaviour of others.
There are four image dimensions that we must have knowledge of to create the proper impression of ourselves in other’s minds. They are credibility, likability, personal attractiveness, and dominance.
You are judged more by nonverbal than verbal cues. A picture is worth a thousand words is a statement we have all heard more than once. The eyes, the face, body movement, the way we sit or walk, and the tenseness in our body all communicate a message. While the tone of our voice or the words we speak are heard what we seem by visual image seems to say more. Anger is seen before words spoken. We know someone is happy even if they don’t make a sound.
The impressions other people have of us is to a certain degree based on perceived stereotypes. This is even more prevalent when someone meets us for the first time and makes a value judgement about who we are. Our image is strongly affected by first impressions and this may affect all subsequent perceptions because attitudes and evaluative judgements created are difficult to change later. When we first meet someone both communicators are on the defensive and talk is usually limited to weather, sports, and other non-confrontational subjects. This limited exchange of personality only allows initial judgement based on nonverbal cues. Any of our body language that correlates to a preconceived stereotype will allow the other to label us. Selective perception is based on the past experiences and the concerns of the communicators. Individuals only see and hear what they want to see based on their beliefs, values and base their perception of us on these filters. We must control nonverbal cues that are least flattering to us. Negative information is usually given more value than positive information so negative stereotypes will hold more weight on the impressions we make. People when meeting others always seem inclined to look for negative information. We must constantly take measures to consciously control the negative judgements others make about our self-confidence, self-esteem, likability, power or social status, and our credibility.
Impressions are formed by personal appearance such as physical beauty, the clothes we are wearing, and how we carry ourselves. Nonverbal cues such as our eye movement and anxiety indicators such as nervous movement attribute to impressions. We must build communicative behaviors that enhance our personal credibility. We must never make false claims to our own achievements or capabilities. Most people discount others claims of achievement so you will on occasion have to have the proof to back up your claims. Most people also favour modest people over the braggart.
Our self-esteem needs to be maintained and we must seem confident and motivated. We must also control our emotions and not be surprised by situations we may meet. We have to control verbal and nonverbal cues to make the desired impression. We must consider which impressions are consistent with the desired reputation we want. We must be aware of what characteristics we can emphasize, which to de-emphasize and which impressions are believable. We must always associate ourselves with desirable image traits while learning to dis-associate ourselves from undesirable traits. Two traits that will benefit you the most are competence and trustworthiness. These two will form the basis for all your future credibility.
- Presidents Obama & Putin: Body Language Recap (psychologytoday.com)
- How We Communicate Through Body Language (psychologytoday.com)