Impression management can be described as a process employed by most people to present themselves and control various perceptions concerning themselves. Many people apply this tool to present themselves as good people (personal branding). Many individuals believe that their outward appearance and personality form part of the main factors that determine how they are judged or perceived by other people. By applying impression management, individuals tend to control the way other people understand them by applying various impression management techniques. Some individuals try to be authentic and ideal in order to control outward perception (Pennington 11). In this paper, I will be tackling embarrassment situations as a topic under impression management.
I will conduct several interviews with friends, relatives and colleagues to determine their embarrassing moments and other details concerning the embarrassment. This will be done in order to address how various individuals manage their impression in embarrassing situations for social order maintenance.
Embarrassment is a social situation that almost everybody experiences in his or her lifetime.
The difference lies on how various individuals manage the embarrassment situations that befall them (Newman 134-142). Considering the role theory of impression management, Goffman describes how various individuals act and react following various situations that call for impression management (79). Impression management applies to situations of embarrassment, self recognition, stage performance, public address and various forms of expression. In impression management, the actors strive to build, defend and sometimes maintain their social perceptions and identities through application of various settings, props and assumptions. In embarrassment situations, the assumptions and props applied are intended to work towards enhancing positive perception. The other theory concerns symbolic interactionism. In the theory, Cooley describes impression management as a tool applied in social situations to enhance social interaction and order (126).
Impression management in situations like embarrassment in social occasions requires individuals involved to respond in a manner that will alleviate rather than intensify the embarrassment.
From the theories discussed, I hypothesize that most individuals will apply tactics, props and assumptions that will build, defend and maintain their impression. Their reactions during the embarrassment moments will alleviate the situation in a manner that will enhance social order and interaction. I also hypothesize that most embarrassing situations are those that occur in a social place rather than a private place.
In this sociological analysis, I used ‘interviewing’ as a qualitative method of data collection.
I held several separate interviews with various respondents. Among those interviewed were friends, relatives as well as some colleagues. The interviews entailed discussion of the most embarrassing situations of respondents. However, I only considered five interviews from five different respondents for this analysis. I organized my data in a qualitative rather than quantitative manner as follows.
First respondent: He was caught cheating on his wife. His wife appeared while in a restaurant having dinner with his girlfriend. Other individuals were also enjoying their meals in the same restaurant.
The wife wanted to create a scene in the restaurant but due to the reactions of the husband, she was not able to accomplish her intentions. He reacted in a manner to defend and distance himself from the allegations by talking politely to his wife. Although other people were in the restaurant, he finally managed to convince his wife to calm down. Both of them went home to discuss and find solutions for the problem. Second respondent: She was caught by her friend talking ill and telling lies about her. The most worrying thing is that the two were very good friends only to realize that one of them was pretending. She felt so embarrassed following the sudden appearance of her friend.
She was very apologetic to calm down the furious reaction of her friend and convinced her to organize for a discussion to resolve the matter in a more private place. Third respondent: She had a problem of stammering. One day, she was selected by her teacher to answer a question in a new class.
Although she tried as much as possible to relax and give an answer, she could not control the stammering completely. Her colleagues laughed at her making her so embarrassed. The only option was to alleviate this embarrassment situation. Therefore, she decided to keep quiet and regain her confidence. She finally requested the teacher to let her write the answer on the board. This alleviated the embarrassment that she was to create if she could have continued talking. Fourth respondent: He was busted on a street staring at a certain lady.
He did not realize until his friends informed him of the reactions of other people. Many people were looking at him in disgrace and others were laughing. Due to this embarrassment, he decided to move away from that street to alleviate the embarrassment. Fifth respondent: She was talking to her father and wanted to give back his money. In the process of returning money, she pulled out a condom from her pocket and was so embarrassed.
She had to explain to her father about the incidence to retain her reputation. She told her father that condom is very necessary especially in cases of rape and unwanted sex. She was quick to mention that they were given the condoms in school.
The above data seems to justify my hypothesis. In embarrassment situations, many individuals will react in a way to either defend themselves or maintain positive impression to the surrounding. The data shows that the most common themes in embarrassment situations are self image, defense and social order. Considering the sociological importance of embarrassment, most individuals will strive to maintain order in a social place by defending themselves to maintain their image. They always strive to find a solution in a more private and orderly place to attract less attention from the public.
Patterns evident in the embarrassing stories include denial patterns, defense patterns and acceptance with apology patterns. “’There are some other issues that concern embarrassment’. ‘They include gender and age’. ‘Female gender appears to be the most affected’” (Pennington 152). Given a similar embarrassing situation, female characters will feel more embarrassed than male characters. Considering age, children feel less embarrassed than middle aged individuals. However, old people appear to be less affected with embarrassment. “In the wreckage left by embarrassment lie the broken foundations of social transactions” (Gross & Stone 2).
This means that embarrassment is very infectious and is capable of incapacitating someone who was not previously incapacitated. Embarrassment can spread to other people who were not involved in the embarrassment scene. For instance, embarrassment situations created by an individual might as well affect his or her family members. Therefore, such ruins can only be used as foundations to restructure the social impression.
Cooley, Larry. Applied Impression Management. Sage: Newbury Park, 2001. Print. Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Doubleday: New York, 2009.
Print. Gross, Edward and Gregory Stone. Embarrassment and the analysis of role requirements. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1964. Print.
Newman, David. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. 6th ed. Madison: Benchmark Publishers, 2008. Print. Pennington, Britt.
Impression Regulation and Management: A Theory of Self- Identification. New York: Guilford, 2006. Print.