How specifically do we use conversation to manage the impressions others have of us?

People Looking Choosing at Colleagues Photo

We spend a lot of our waking hours talking. A lot of conversation is about sharing information so we can influence each other and coordinate our behaviors. But we also use conversation to build and maintain social relationships. We make small talk to pass the time, we shoot the breeze with our buddies, we chat up prospective mates, and we sweet talk spouses and bosses. In other words, double duty conversation in our lives, serving as a means for both information exchange and impression management.

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We tend to focus on the superficial aspects of information exchange. While our partner is speaking, we are busy thinking of what to say next. After the conversation is over, we often have very little recall of the specific items that were discussed.

How should I handle the conversation to achieve the goal? Let’s consider three scenarios.

Try to talk about his accomplishments. Tell others about your job and your recent promotion

Ask standard questions, like “Where are you from?” And “What do you do?” After the person replies, you give your own response to the question.

Start with a general question like “What do you do?”

Think about what approach would you take? Casual observation of conversational exchanges suggests that many men will take the first approach, especially if they are trying to present themselves as “alpha male.” Men who know they can not pull off the “alpha male” will often strive for the “Nice guy” impression instead. This is the second approach. (Of course, women use these approaches as well.)

Many people, however, are reluctant to take the third approach. They are concerned that asking too many questions will eat off the intrusive. Or else they worry that they might ask the wrong question and offend the other person. Anyway, it’s generally easier to talk about yourself than to think up appropriate questions to ask your partner.