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People often engage in ingratiation, self-handicapping, and self-monitoring in order to influence the way others view them. In this lesson, we’ll take a closer look at some examples of each of these impression management behaviors.

Impression Management

Think about a time when you were in a situation where you wanted to put your best foot forward, such as a job interview.

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How did you act? What did you say? Were you completely honest when they asked, ‘What is your biggest weakness?’If you’re like most people, you probably changed the way you acted at the job interview and didn’t tell the interviewer what your biggest weakness really was. When we work to make others see us in a particular light, it is called impression management. Impression management can happen consciously or subconsciously. There are many types of impression management.

Three common ways that we control the way others see us are ingratiation, self-handicapping, and self-monitoring. Let’s look at each a little closer.

Ingratiation

Ingratiation happens when we try to get others to like us with flattery, praise, and just generally trying to be likable. For example, Jenny works with Terry.

For some reason, Terry doesn’t seem to like Jenny. He talks to her only as much as he needs to in order to get work done, and he sometimes is short with her. Jenny really wants Terry to like her, so she decides to be extra nice to him. She brings him coffee in the morning and asks about his kids. She also praises his work. In short, Jenny ingratiates herself to Terry.

Since most people like others who admire and are nice to them, ingratiation is a pretty good strategy most of the time. However, it can backfire if someone realizes that you’re only being nice to them to win their approval. For example, if Terry realizes that Jenny is being ingratiating, instead of genuinely nice, then he might react with disappointment and scorn.

Self-Handicapping

Self-handicapping occurs when we create obstacles for ourselves so that we have an excuse if we do poorly. For example, Roopa is performing in a big concert at her college next week.

She’s scared that she will embarrass herself in front of her friends and tells them that she hasn’t been feeling well. When she does mess up, she reminds her friends that she has been sick.There are two types of self-handicapping: behavioral and verbal.

In behavioral self-handicapping, people create actual obstacles to success. For example, a student who is nervous about a test might go out and drink the night before, so that when he fails, he can blame it on a hangover.Verbal self-handicapping is making excuses before an event, such as when Roopa told her friends that she wasn’t feeling well. It’s important to note that, while ingratiation is usually a conscious tactic, self-handicapping is often subconscious. That is, people may not realize that they are self-handicapping when they actually are.

Self-Monitoring

Another type of impression management is self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is when we change the way we present ourselves based on social cues. For example, Barbara is at a party. Someone makes a joke that Barbara doesn’t find funny, but everyone else laughs, so she laughs too. She is displaying self-monitoring behavior.

People who are high in self-monitoring change their behavior or appearance regularly according to social cues. Politicians are often high in self-monitoring; they present themselves to others based on what they figure the other person wants to see. High self-monitors believe that the way we present ourselves to others is an important part of social relationships.Meanwhile, people who are low in self-monitoring don’t adapt to different social cues.

They are often non-conformists who like to march to their own beat. Low self-monitors often believe that changing according to social cues is dishonest or misleading. However, low self-monitors can come across as socially awkward.

Lesson Summary

Impression management is the way we present ourselves to others in order to control the way they view us, either consciously or subconsciously. There are three major types of impression management: ingratiation, or trying to get others to like us through flattery; self-handicapping, or creating obstacles before a failure; and self-monitoring, or changing the way we present ourselves based on social cues.

Learning Outcome

At the conclusion of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Define impression management
  • List and describe each of the three common impression management behaviors: ingratiation, self-handicapping, and self-monitoring
  • Distinguish between the two different types of self-handicapping
  • Understand why people engage in these behaviors

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