The Dangerous Art of ‘Impression Management’

Impression management is our desire to manipulate others’ impressions of us on the front stage. It refers to determining the impressions others form of them regarding their behavior, motivation, morality, and other characteristics such as their intelligence and future potential. It has been found that there are differences in the impression management strategies used by women as compared to men.

Women in Western context use lesser impression management strategies than men. Some of the constructs closely related to impression management are self-monitoring, self-presentation and influence tactics (or impression management behaviours). There are two types of impression management strategies— soft impression management and hard impression management strategies. Hard impression management strategies include direct and aggressive impression management strategies such as assertiveness, sanctions, upward appeal, blocking, self-promotion and intimidation. Soft impression management strategies include indirect and subtle impression management strategies such as ingratiation, coalition, exemplification and supplication. Particular combinations of impression management strategies lead to specific outcomes.

Appropriateness of the influence tactic is an important dimension for the choice of impression management strategies. Indians avoid hard impression management strategies as compared to Dutch and Americans. Assertive and task oriented impression management strategies were perceived as more effective by American and Swiss managers as compared to Chinese managers. Thus, hard impression management strategies may be perceived as more effective by low power distance cultures as compared to high power distance cultures. Women displaying authoritarian behaviours face perceptions of lesser effectiveness than their male counterparts. Women use charm, appearance, ingratiation and compliments as impression management strategies, which are soft impression management strategies. Women are perceived as more effective when displaying behaviours which are considered appropriate based on gender stereotypes. Therefore, from an effectiveness perspective, women would tend to choose soft impression management strategies over hard impression management strategies.

Thus, a specific impression management strategy cannot be used with similar results across situations. Therefore, actors would need to actively choose impression management strategies in each situation. Read more

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