Thursday, October 5, 2023

Note to (Presentation of) Self

I'll be teaching about Goffman's presentation of self to students soon. I love the material, and enjoy talking with students about different examples of front stage and back stage behaviors. My go to example of impressions is a hundred years ago I went to a job interview not wearing a tie. I could see the interviewer's notes on the table. He wrote "NO TIE!!" We are always making impressions, regardless of whether we mean to. First impressions, of course. But second impressions too. Impressions always. 

Anyway...sometimes I get lost in talking about impression management and performances. This time around, I want to say more about what happens when emotions take over. When we are reacting emotionally, are we less concerned with managing impressions? In such instances, are we less deliberate about our behavior? Like when we're mad! For example, what's going on with the couple constantly arguing with each other in the neighborhood? Do they think about the possibility that their fighting shapes people's impression of them as an unhappy couple? Do they care? Whatever the case, they keep forming impressions. Or suppose a dad is jawing at another dad at a youth sports event. Something angers a parent who then speaks aggressively to the other parent. Awkward! This would be front stage bickering between two dads. In such an exchange, emotions rule the interaction. There seems to be less calculation in these kinds of interactions. So this is just a note to myself (with a few examples to consider) to talk with students about how to analyze interactions when raw emotions are a key feature, and how emotional interactions influence the impressions of audience members.