Title: The Art of Impression Management and Active Listening in Everyday Life


Hatched by Glasp

Jun 28, 2023

3 min read


Title: The Art of Impression Management and Active Listening in Everyday Life


In our daily interactions, we often find ourselves playing various roles, influenced by the people around us. Erving Goffman, in his book "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life," introduces the concept of impression management and compares social interaction to a theatrical performance. This idea resonates with the way we navigate through life, constantly aware of the audience's expectations. Additionally, active listening, a skill often overlooked, plays a vital role in effective communication. By practicing active listening, we can foster better connections and understanding with others.

Impression Management: The Theater of Everyday Life

Goffman's dramaturgical model of social life likens social interaction to a theater, where individuals play different roles. The "front stage" represents the part of ourselves we present to the world, influenced by the expectations of our audience. This is where we consciously manage our behavior to avoid embarrassment or maintain a certain image. On the other hand, the "backstage" is our authentic self, where we can relax and shed the roles we play in front of others. Goffman emphasizes the constant process of "impression management" to navigate social settings successfully.

Impression Management and Social Significance:

Through our performances, we give meaning not only to ourselves but also to others and the situation at hand. Our appearance reflects our social statuses and temporary roles, while our manner warns the audience of how we will act. Inconsistencies between appearance and manner can confuse and upset the audience, highlighting the importance of congruence in our behavior. The front we present to others serves to define the situation and adhere to social scripts. These scripts guide our behavior and expectations in specific contexts.

The Role of Active Listening in Effective Communication:

While impression management focuses on our external presentation, effective communication requires active listening. Farnam Street's article highlights that listening is a skill that demands knowledge and practice. Active listening involves suppressing our ego to understand and retain the speaker's words. It requires focusing on the other person's words rather than formulating our response. By actively listening, we go beyond the words and strive to understand the speaker's emotions and intentions.

The Pitfall of Conversational Narcissism:

Sociologist Charles Derber identifies conversational narcissism, where people shift the discussion towards themselves rather than listening and responding appropriately. This self-obsession manifests in our conversational practices, neglecting supportive questions and rarely using them throughout the conversation. Merely appearing attentive is not enough; our responses must reflect our genuine listening. It is common for individuals to listen with the intent of preparing their response as soon as the speaker finishes, overlooking the value of active listening.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Practice Impression Management Awareness: Take note of the roles you play in different situations and reflect on how they align with your authentic self. Strive for consistency between appearance and manner to build trust and understanding.
  • 2. Engage in Active Listening: Make a conscious effort to focus on the speaker's words, emotions, and intentions. Minimize the use of pronouns that steer the conversation towards yourself and instead, use "you" to show genuine interest in the other person.
  • 3. Cultivate Empathetic Communication: Develop empathy by actively listening and seeking to understand others' perspectives. This will foster more meaningful connections and enhance your communication skills.


In our everyday lives, we navigate the theater of social interaction, managing impressions and adhering to social scripts. Simultaneously, active listening plays a crucial role in effective communication by allowing us to understand and connect with others on a deeper level. By incorporating the concepts of impression management and active listening into our interactions, we can build stronger relationships, foster understanding, and navigate the complexities of social life more effectively.

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