The Meaning of "FACE"

Face is the result of four cultural orientations: Strongly Relational, Valuing Relationships and Harmony, Power Distance, and High Reciprocity, AND is most noticeably manifest in a speech pattern usually referred to as Indirect Communication.

These four cultural orientations have a very subtle interplay.

Harmony can be lost by acting disrespectfully to someone with whom you have a relationship or can be maintained by acting respectfully. When you do someone a favor, such as acting respectfully, that someone incurs a debt. Reciprocity demands that in the future the debt be repaid, so one must keep track of ones debts. High Power Distance includes rules for acknowledging and being respectful towards those of higher status. And none of this would be important if achievement rather than relationships were believed to be required for personal and business success. NOTE:- North America and Northern Europe tend not to have any of these orientations, rather they have the opposite.

Acting disrespectfully often changes someones mood, current feeling and state of mind. Hence loss of face is often an injury to a person's pride or dignity. Acting respectfully often requires putting the maintenance of a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere ahead of attaining immediate goals or telling the absolute truth. Cultures where face is important believe that to accomplish something while causing unhappiness or discomfort to others is to accomplish nothing at all. If relationships are not kept harmonious, it is difficult, if not impossible, to work towards any goal. All cultures value how their members feel emotionally, but few cultures value this as much as cultures where face is important do. In such cultures, to put greater emphasis on efficiency, honesty or some higher form of moral integrity, is to be cold and unfeeling.

Face enters into every aspect of life. Knowing how to judge the state of other people's face, how to avoid hurting it, and keeping your own face in a satisfactory state are important skills.

Those who ignore the significance of face will find many unnecessary obstacles in their paths. To foreigners, people in cultures that value face may seem overly sensitive and emotional, and their face seems to be hurt too easily. For example, an elder's face may be damaged when his subordinate does not show proper respect, that is, by not bowing soon enough, not using honorific words, or not contacting the superior within an appropriate period of time. Most of these rules of etiquette are well known to natives, and while they are often difficult or cumbersome to remember, they should be heeded to avoid hurting face.

If you damage someone's face, even inadvertently, for example, if you do not know a person's position in relation to yourself, and improperly treat him as an inferior, his face may be hurt, and he may not wish to continue a relationship with you.

Bad news, a negative financial report or an employee's error, for example, is generally brought to an office at the end of the day, to give the recipient time to recover before the next day. And people are almost always fired without any notice, for who can continue working when their face has been so badly damaged? Giving a less expensive gift than the receiver would deem appropriate can also injure face. Sensitivity is most important with regard to people of a higher status. A superior often does not consider the feelings of those of lower status. But then inferiors have less face to lose!