role distancing (social role distancing)

(noun) When an individual intentionally promotes a lack of attachment and commitment to a role or does not fully engage in a role’s performance.

Example: When an employee must fire fellow employees and says “I am just doing my job” or a server in a restaurant will remind customers that they are not only a server but also a student or artist.

Audio Pronunciation: (role dis·tanc·ing)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: role distancings
  • The terms role distancing and social role distancing are used interchangeably in a sociological context.
  • Role distancing decreases role strain.
  • A type of impression management.
  • Variant form: role-distancing
  • Role distancing used in a sentence: I practiced role distancing while I was working a dead end job.

Related Quotations:

  • “People use distancing techniques when they do not want others to take them as the ‘self’ implied in a particular role, especially if they think the role is ‘beneath them'” (Kendall 2006:119).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.