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Impression Management & Negotiation

Negotiation is a fact of life. It’s a skill that everyone uses daily. Not all of us use it well, but all of us use it. Negotiation is also a key element of Impression Management. This post discusses principles for good negotiation skills, how negotiation and impression management intersect, and how to encourage your child to build their impression management skills through negotiation and self-advocacy. Let’s get started!

Impression Management, Negotiation & Self-Advocacy

The fourth pillar of our unique Executive Function curriculum is impression management. Like organization, time management, and learning skills, Impression management is essential to student success. But it’s unique in its wide-ranging application. Some would argue that impression management is more important than any other skill. In fact, study after study confirms the importance of people skills over technical skills. Impression management’s importance is rarely challenged, so why don’t students more students know about it?

First, it’s kind of hard to explain. Second, it’s challenging to teach. Impression management is an esoteric topic in many ways. Students can imagine a student who is organized or manages their time well. They can even picture someone who is good at learning when given the right analogies and examples. Impression management, though, is difficult to pin down. It’s a relatively new addition to Executive Function, as well. Only recently, in organizational and industrial psychology, has impression management received its due in research attention.

Impression management in industrial and organizational psychology refers to the conscious efforts individuals make to shape how others perceive them. It involves strategically controlling and presenting oneself to create a desired impression, and influence how others evaluate them in a professional or organizational setting. People engage in impression management because they understand that others form opinions based on various cues, such as verbal communication, nonverbal behavior, appearance, and personal attributes. Individuals aim to project a specific image that aligns with their goals by managing these cues. For example, they may want to be seen as competent, trustworthy, likable, or influential.

By strategically managing the impressions they create, individuals seek to enhance their professional reputation, build relationships, gain social influence, and increase their chances of success. But it’s important to note that impression management should not be equated with deception or manipulation. While it involves shaping perceptions, it is not necessarily about being dishonest. It focuses more on strategic self-presentation and aligning one’s image with their goals and the expectations of the organizational context.

At SAOTG, we are huge fans of impression management. Our academic coaches teach the idea of social capital and stress the importance of involvement in clubs and activities, both inside and outside of school. Traditional intelligence (IQ) is important to a point, but emotional intelligence (EQ) is the edge students need to perform at their best!

In summary, Impression management is an art that helps individuals shape how others perceive them. Specifically with negotiation, students learn how to project confidence, build rapport, and establish credibility. Awareness and control of one’s non-verbal cues, such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, apply to negotiation and other impression management skills. In fact, negotiation is just one vehicle to practice impression management. Because it’s advocacy with a built-in incentive, students can easily buy into the learning process. Negotiation is a critical skill that your children will encounter throughout their lives. It teaches the importance of assertiveness, resilience, and self-care in supporting your children’s development of healthy boundaries and the ability to stand up for themselves. From navigating social relationships to addressing academic challenges, the ability to negotiate effectively can pave the way for success.

First Principles

Negotiation experts emphasize several fundamental principles that are essential for effective negotiation (and effective communication, in general). By understanding and applying these principles, students can enhance their impression management. Here are some ideas from leading negotiation experts:

Prepare and Research: Before entering a negotiation, it’s crucial to gather information about the subject matter, identify goals and objectives, and understand the other party’s perspective. Professor Deepak Malhotra from Harvard Business School suggests that thorough preparation enables students to be more confident, make better decisions, and anticipate potential challenges.

Focus on Interests, Not Positions: Rather than getting fixated on specific demands or positions, negotiation experts such as Professors Roger Fisher and William Ury, authors of Getting to Yes, advocate for focusing on underlying interests. Encourage students to explore the reasons behind their needs and those of the other party. This approach allows for more creative problem-solving and the potential to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Foster Effective Communication: Communication skills are vital in negotiation. Professor Sheila Heen, co-author of Difficult Conversations, emphasizes the importance of active listening and empathy. Encourage students to listen attentively, acknowledge the other party’s concerns, and ask clarifying questions to ensure a clear understanding of the situation.

Seek Win-Win Solutions: Professor Robert Mnookin, a leading expert on negotiation, highlights the value of seeking mutually beneficial outcomes. Encourage students to adopt a collaborative mindset and explore options that satisfy both their and the other party’s interests. This approach fosters long-term relationships and enhances the chances of reaching successful agreements. Moreover, Professor Max Bazerman advises students to generate a wide range of potential solutions before settling on one. Encourage students to think creatively and brainstorm multiple options that address the interests of both parties. This approach expands the possibility of finding innovative and mutually beneficial solutions.

Build Rapport and Trust: Building rapport and trust with the other party can significantly influence the negotiation outcome. Professor Leigh Thompson from Northwestern University suggests that establishing a positive relationship through open and honest communication helps foster trust and cooperation. Encourage students to find common ground, show genuine interest, and maintain a respectful tone throughout the negotiation.

Applying Negotiating Principles as a Student

When students hear the word negotiation, they usually picture some scene from a movie or tv show. A CEO, professional athlete, or crime boss sits across from a counterpart to battle it out. But that’s not what negotiation really is. Negotiation is communicating with another person and finding the middle ground. It’s a very commonplace activity if you look out for it. Students require negotiation skills in these situations:

Academic Advocacy: Negotiation skills are essential in academic settings beyond group projects. For instance, students may need to negotiate with teachers or professors regarding deadlines, assignments, or exam accommodations. Students can work towards mutually agreeable solutions that support their academic progress by effectively communicating their needs.

Group Projects: When working on group projects, students can use negotiation principles to discuss and allocate tasks, establish project timelines, and address any conflicts or differences of opinion that may arise. Effective negotiation techniques can lead to better collaboration, equitable workload distribution, and improved project outcomes.

Social Relationships: Interpersonal interactions among students often involve negotiation. Whether deciding on activities during leisure time, resolving conflicts among friends, or planning events together, negotiation skills enable students to express their preferences, consider others’ viewpoints, and find compromises that maintain positive relationships.

Conflict Resolution: Students often encounter conflicts with peers, parents, and anyone else they interact with—teenagers deal with many self-initiated conflicts. It helps to know how to fix those, and whether or not the student caused the conflict. By applying negotiation principles, students can engage in constructive conversations, seek common ground, and find mutually acceptable resolutions.

Encourage students to look for negotiation opportunities. Call them self-advocacy opportunities if you want. In either case, students need to practice this crucial aspect of impression management.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this blog post! The interplay between Executive Function and negotiation is a crucial but often overlooked area of student development. Negotiation skills provide a tangible, valuable method for students to practice self-advocacy. Moreover, it’s a skill that students can practice every day. Whether they are talking with a teacher, a sibling, or a grocery store clerk, these skills help. Negotiation isn’t slimy or deceptive, and neither is impression management. In many ways, learning to assess the emotional status and goals of others helps students develop better self-awareness. These are skills that help people communicate. Students should proactively look to master these often overlooked areas of social skill development.

For more information about Executive Function, please visit our blog page if one-on-one academic support is just what your child needs, please reach out to us today!

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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