Resolving the impression management dilemma: The strategic benefits of soliciting others for advice

by Liljenquist, Katie A., Ph.D., NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, 2010, 201 pages; 3402210


Impression management (IM) is an essential part of navigating social life, allowing individuals to proactively mold others’ perceptions of them. However, there is an inherent tension between the two primary dimensions of interpersonal evaluation: warmth and competence. Although most IM strategies target one dimension at the expense of the other, I explore a strategy that can enhance warmth without damaging perceived competence: soliciting advice. In this dissertation, I test the efficacy of advice-seeking as an IM strategy that produces multiple interpersonal benefits: it can enhance warmth, sincerity, humility, promote cooperation, induce perspective-taking, and inspire commitment.

Six studies test these proposed benefits in contexts in which effective IM is critical: self-promotion, performance appraisals, and negotiations. In the domain of self-promotion (Chapter 1), pilot surveys indicated that advice-seeking is infrequently used as an IM strategy. Although novice tacticians expressed concern about the transparency of this approach, Studies 2 and 3 found that an advice-seeking approach to self-promotion was regarded as considerably more sincere than directly stating one’s accomplishments. Importantly, this approach resolved the fundamental self-promotion dilemma for both men and women: advice-seekers were able to project competence without jeopardizing warmth. Furthermore, targets were flattered by requests for advice and more willing to pledge their commitment to advice-seekers. In the realm of performance appraisals (Chapter 2), I tested whether advice could repair strained relations, turning an adversary into an advocate. Studies 4 and 5 indicated that when solicited spontaneously, advice facilitated perspective-taking ability and enhanced warmth. Importantly, these gains in warmth mediated the influence of advice-seeking on securing a promotion. Chapter 3 explored advice-seeking in negotiation contexts, testing whether asking one's opponent for advice could improve relational gains without compromising economic outcomes. Studies 6 and 7 showed that advice-seeking enhanced relational outcomes and encouraged creative deal-making that yielded mutual benefit. Together, these studies suggest that advice-seeking offers numerous impression management benefits when properly employed. This research contributes to current inquiry on impression management by providing a novel strategy by which individuals can project warmth without jeopardizing competence.

AdviserAdam D. Galinsky
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsSocial psychology; Management
Publication Number3402210

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