Managing Impressions to Improve Professional Image

The impression we make on others is made within seconds, it build or breaks trust and is why we are either remembered or forgotten.

Whether we do it consciously or subconsciously – we build ourselves as a brand. This brand could be perceived as negative or positive.

If we take into account that more than 90% of our communication is non-verbal, is in how we present ourselves visually, orally, our decorum , facial expressions, gesture, posture, eye contact etc, it is hard to believe that the impression we chose to make is note always a deliberate process.

Where Does Impression Management Fit in Personal Development?

Impression Management is a subset of Emotional Intelligence and according to Howard Gardner’s Spectrum of Intelligences (Frames of the mind, 1983), inter- and intrapersonal intelligence is one of nine types of intelligences all people have in varying degrees. By becoming more aware and emotionally effective in our interactions, we can manage and control the situations we find ourselves in. We can consciously develop our ‘intelligence’ in that area. Our ability to develop our Social Intelligence is a key driver of Impression and Image Management.

Daniel Goleman refers to this aspect of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as our Social Intelligence and his works on the various aspects of EQ are considered as the basis for many other researches and publications on EQ. He states:

People adept at influence are able to sense or even anticipate their audience’s reaction to their message and can effectively carry everyone along toward and intended goal’ … the stratagems used by top performers include Impression Management…

Some companies focusing on Impression Management have done extensive research into people’s preferred looks, preferences, style, personalities, body language and communication style. A good understanding of others goes a long way to facilitate Social Intelligence in our interactions in business and our personal lives. This is specifically effective in negotiations, conflict resolution, closing of more business and building of a specific image in the market place.

All in the Subconscious Mind

Most people have a vivid subconscious mind.

We either like what we see, hear etc. or we don’t. Without realizing it, we then respond accordingly or subconsciously. Malcolm Gladwell states that this process where our ‘adaptive subconscious’’ sizes up the world happens in as short a time as the first 2 seconds of contact. He further points out that we can control and educate our snap judgments and impressions. He also states that first impressions are generated by our experiences and environment and that by consciously altering our experiences, we could change the impressions we form.

Author Milo O. Frank states that we only have 30 seconds to make an impression AND get a message across.

Where to Start with Impression Management?

Therefore, if we can create an image that most people find trustworthy, professional and positive, and this image is true to yourself and authentic, we stand a good chance to interact positively with the other person. This is indeed a program and in fact a change process that must be engineered and managed. However, let me re-iterate that this change must be authentic to someone’s own style, preferences likes and dislikes to be sustainable.

Impression Management fits into the ‘how; we do things. The ‘what’ on its own is often not enough.

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