4.5.0: Self-Perception, Identity, and Communication

In this section, we will discuss how our identity influences communication with ourselves and other people, and, in turn, how others communicate with us.

4.5.1: Self-Perception, Identity, and Communication

A simple way to think of identity is that it is comprised of three main facets: who we think we are, who we want others to think we are, and who others think we are (Verderber, MacGeorge, & Verderber, 2016). The first facet, who we think we are, pertains to our self-perception, and this informs how we communicate with ourselves. For example, let’s say you think you are a smart individual.  When you go to approach a difficult problem you might say to yourself “I’m smart- I can do this!” On the other hand, if you don’t think of yourself as very smart, when you go to approach a difficult problem you instead may say to yourself “Oh, this is too difficult. I’ll never get it, so it’s not worth trying.”

The second facet, who we want others to think we are, influences our communication in that we use communication to try to get others to perceive us a particular way. For example, if you want others to think you are cool, you might communicate this nonverbally by dressing in particular style or buying certain brands and accessories.

The final facet, who others think we are, influences the types of messages we receive from other people. For example, let’s say others don’t think you are very intelligent. This will likely cause them talk to you using small words or in a condescending matter (or not talk to you all.)

In addition, identity and communication are mutually reinforcing. This means that messages we receive from others (who they think we are) influence who we think we are. For example, if others think we are intelligent and constantly tell us that we are smart, we will likely also think we are smart. This thinking about ourselves, in turn, is likely to influence how we communicate with others around us. For example, we may use big words or assert our expert opinions.


Identity and the Internet:

One of the advantages to technology is that we can carefully craft and edit our online personas and the messages that are sent through mediated-communication channels. This means we have the power to shape how others perceive us. We may only post our best pictures on Facebook or tweet about exciting things we are doing so other perceive us positively. In addition, we can explore identities that we may not be able to explore in our face-to-face interactions. Online we can be anyone we want to be. For example, someone may craft an online persona and interact with others using a different gender identity, which can be much harder to achieve in face-to-face interactions.

Back to: I.C.A.T Interpersonal Communication Abridged Textbook > Chapter 4: Identity and Perception of Self