The Importance of "Face" in Everyday Communication:
The Things People Say
In everyday communication we have our face on the line. What exactly is face? Face is a communicator's claim to be seen a certain way; the positive social value a person claims for herself or himself. There are two dimensions of face:
1. Positive Face: a person's desire to gain approval from others. There are two components: (A) need to be included and (B) need to be respected.
2. Negative Face: refers to the desire to have autonomy and not be controlled by others.
Face is important and can be potentially threatened in everyday interaction and, subsequently, can lead to conflict. The question is, how do people lose face? Here are pointers to remember that may help in managing conflicts:
People lose face when their identity claims are challenged or ignored by others. I had firsthand experience with this when a female participant in one of my seminars referred to my assigned chapter readings from one of my books on gender as a "throw back to the sixties." Ouch! My first thought was, "Wow, she could have provided feedback in a hundred others ways than this defensive creating, face losing style." Ironically, she went on to incorporate the very speech patterns I mentioned in my chapter. Oh, did I mention she said this in front of the entire group? My face was threatened on two fronts: (1) my expertise with 35 years of study, research, training, publications, etc in gender and (2) I am a boomer.
"Throw back to the sixties" implied my points were out dated and no longer viable. Certainly, at that moment, I did not feel she respected me or recognized my identity as a gender expert.
Part 2 In December's newsletter will address how face-saving affects issues in conflict, what forms does face-saving take in conflict interactions and how face giving can mitigate loss of face.
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