Building or Gaining Face

Lesson 3: Topic 9 of 14

To me, your “face” is your position and standing in the eyes of others, and it also has to do with the degree of respect you receive. Face can also be saved up over time and used to accomplish things later on. If you drove a fashionable or luxurious car to attend a friend’s party, then the majority of your friends would feel that you had face. Also, if you can achieve something through your personal contacts that others cannot through normal channels, you would also be thought to have face. You can gain face if you are praised by your boss, or if you accomplish a difficult task at work. However, if you greet others warmly at social events, but are met only with indifference, then you would lose face. Questioning someone’s  ideas or opinion in a public setting would cause that person to lose face.

James Tan, Sales Manager, Shanghai

Obviously, in order to help relationships with many Asian employees, coworkers, or clients, these are important skills to use. However, saving face also has applications for some Middle Eastern and other cultures, with some differences. The influence of Confucius in Eastern and Southeast Asia creates a structure for Face to be earned or lost. In the Middle East, a shame-honor contrast means mentally balancing these concepts, with attempts to bring honor wherever possible. (We plan to address this in a future course – stay tuned!) 

The most important takeaway for the Westerner is that a highly positive approach to communication is critical with Easterners. Build Face for yourself and others whenever possible. Do it!

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