Making a good impression is a vital skill in life. When the stakes are high, successful effective impression management can help us get the job, ink the deal, or embark on a new relationship. Yet, while we all think we know how to make a good impression, we often miss the mark. My research on impression (mis)mangement identifies the common mistakes we make when we think we know what to do, but what we say is not what others hear.
In all areas of our lives, we want to be both liked and respected, but sometimes these goals conflict. Effective self-presentation requires careful balancing acts. How can we promote our accomplishments without seeming arrogant? How can we give useful advice without seeming offensive or annoying? How can we give compliments while seeming sincere—and accept them without getting embarrassed? In investigating these questions, I reveal ways in which we try to meet these difficult goals— humblebragging, backhanded compliments, namedropping, inside jokes, mansplaining—and why. I also explain why these tactics backfire and how we can do better.
What can we do about it? Behavioral Science for Better Relationships
What can we do about these mistakes? My research offers evidence-based solutions to these problems. I apply behavioral science insights from psychology and economics to develop behavioral interventions people can use to improve their relationships, both in their personal lives and at work. For example, how can a work team improve its performance, while also boosting liking among team members? How can we add more meaning to our romantic relationships? How can we be present at both work and home, and create a healthy boundary between the two? When evaluating others, should we consider their intentions or their outcomes? I identify answers to such questions that can help people make more optimal decisions about their relationships.