Ervin Goffman’s Interactive Ritual at Play in Business & Society

Ervin Goffman’s Interactive Ritual at Play in Society

I’ve often felt like I’ve had to act or play a part in many social situations, yet I never fully understood why. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized through experience why this is happening, yet it wasn’t until I listened to Erving Goffman’s Interaction Ritual. The interactive ritual talks about concepts called line, face and expressive order, where he explains how social interactions take place on a day to day basis. As an entrepreneur, I’ve often used peer pressure as ways to leverage performance. At the time, I would have related it to studying conversational hypnosis or reading about the power of influence but none of them presented a normal everyday scenario in the way Goffman did.

The science of persuasion often talks about things like authority, reciprocity, liking, consensus. These are all things that play out in the barbecue scenario presented in Goffman’s Interaction Ritual. Often when someone poses themselves as an authority, and has someone who likes them, or vouches for them, the consensus will often follow suit and see that individual as an authority, whether they truly were or not. One way I’ve seen the interaction ritual at work is through obligation. Social obligation can come in many forms. Often a simple request as a favor creates a dynamic where reciprocity can be reasonably expected at some point in the future, of equal or lesser social value. Waiters and waitresses often attempt to over deliver on customer service creating a unique and personalized experience for their guests, in hopes that the tip they were already going to receive, may be increased by a small percentage.

Another way I’ve noticed the interaction ritual at play with social dynamics is through a man in a business suit or in a uniform. Having served in the military for 6 years, I can use personal experience of the effects I’ve had on people wearing my uniform. They see it as a show of force. There is a ton of built in authority that is tied to the uniform and then attached to me. It does give an individual a great deal of social responsibility and that person must act with an awareness of that.

The final example of the interactive ritual is sex appeal and likability. People tend to believe and respond to people who they find attractive, people who they can relate to, and people who pay them compliments or make them feel good about themselves. This often leaves men and women prone to dating scammers while older people who are looking for someone to talk to are often scammed over the phone by telemarketers who make them feel so good about themselves, they purchase anything being sold to them. Scammers tend to play off people giving a well-dressed or well-presented individual the benefit of the doubt. They look like me or they dress nice so they must be ok. Often there is no harm no foul, but there are plenty of people victimized by the social dynamic being used against them, amidst the interactive ritual by Ervin Goffman.