Though we often talk about self as one whole identity, we display multiple selves. We choose to present ourselves depending on a situation. According to the psychologist, William James, a man generally shows a different side of himself to different groups he meets. For e.. He would show one side of himself to his friends while showing another side of him to his kids. He keeps his self- presentation changing depending on what others expect from him. Schlenker defined impression management as,‘ the conscious or unconscious attempt to control images that are projected in real or imaginary social interactions. When these images deal with some aspect of self, we call it self-presentation.
There are various theories of self-presentation. The theory called Symbolic Interactionism, by C.H.Cooley and G.H.Mead, stressed that participants in social interactions try to take the role of the other and see themselves as others see them. Another theory, called presentation of the self in everyday life, by Erving Goffman says that the social interaction is a theatrical performance. Every person chooses a face as a background for social interaction. Yet another theory called Situated Identities proposes that for each social setting there is a pattern of social behavior that conveys an identity particularly appropriate for that setting. All these theories agree that we present ourselves depending on the situation and other’s perception about us.
Sometimes we want to look good and sometimes we just want to maintain necessary performance so that we do not look bad. Jones and Pittman (1982) identified five tactics of self-presentation that the person may adapt. They are:
1)Ingratiation: This is a class of strategic behaviors illicitly designed to influence a particular other person concerning the attractiveness of one's personal qualities. The goal of ingratiator is being likeable. This involves complimenting another person or indulging in flattery with certain amount of credibility and honesty. It also involves conforming, another person’s view point. It has been observed that we like people who think or act like us. Thus presenting ourselves in the same way can generate favorable response from others.
2)Intimidation: In this strategy the person arouses fear among others to get the work done. He does not care about being likeable, all he wants is to control others and exercise his powers.
3)Self- promotion: This is a kind of advertising. The self-promoter wants to be seen as competent in certain areas. He may acknowledge minor flaws in his skills while emphasizing stronger points of his personality. However, if his claims do not match his abilities, then he may create a very bad impression.
4)Exemplification: In this strategy, the person tries to elicit the impression of moral worthiness and integrity while creating a feeling of guilt among others. When a person says,” I will finish this work even if I fall sick but you go and enjoy.” he is using this strategy.
5)Supplication: In this strategy the person advertises his weaknesses in order to get sympathy. The person portrays himself as helpless to get the help from others.
Although, a person may use all the five tactics on different occasions, some people specialize in one or two tactics. Sometimes they use more than one strategy to influence others. Self-presentation tactics seem to be a matter of selecting certain characteristics and omitting others rather than a deliberate deception. Some people may stick to one tactic for so long that it may become a consistent aspect of their personality. Impression-management is neither good nor bad, it is an integral part of our social interaction and everyone gets involved in it everyday.