Facework Theory Stella Ting-Toomey looked at intercultural interaction, including conflict and negotiation, along with Hofstedes notion of individualism versus collectivism and Halls ideas of low and high context assumptions to come up with her Facework Theory (Cocroft, T-T Face-Japan/US). Facework refers to the ways particular communicative moves speak to the identity claims of self and other in specific social situations; and while face concerns are not necessarily focal, they are always immanent (Ting-Toomey Call. Of Facework 325). When any person is teased or attacked verbally, that person will automatically feel the need to save face. This age-old term of saving face goes hand in hand with the idea of losing face. It is these ideas of losing and saving face, and how different cultures deal with these happenings that the Facework theory attempts to explain.
The Facework negotiation theory bases itself in the idea of conflict, which can be understood as an arisen situation, that demands active Facework management (Ting-Toomey ICS 213), from the persons involved. This theory uses 32 propositions that try to describe and explain cross-cultural conflict problems and Facework strategies, under the assumptions that people in all cultures negotiate in conflicts using the idea of face. When dealing with face negotiation in conflicts, many theorists overlook a very important factor. This factor that Ting-Toomey helped bring to light is the idea of cultural variability (Cocroft, T-T Face-Japan/US 472). She stated that the idea of culture should be looked at when explaining / describing /predicting conflict management and someones ideas of face, because these things are shaped and influenced by the norms and social values of their particular culture. That is, when looking at a conflict between two people, one must take into account what culture each person is part of because everything each person believes values, and accepts as social norms is shaped by their individual cultures (Cocroft, T-T Face-Japan/US 472-4).
This idea is stretched further by Ting-Toomey. The two basic types of cultures can be classified as collectivistic and individualistic. These two terms, in their most basic sense, mean that cultures based on collectivism define the concept of ones self by using social and personal relationships, while a culture based on individualism defines the self through internal personal feelings, senses and states. One culture uses themselves to define their values and the other uses society, respectfully. Still, in other words, one culture looks at the we for identity purposes while the other looks at the I for identity. While collectivistic cultures are mostly concerned with the adaptability of their self-presentation and image, individualistic cultures mostly concern themselves with the trueness and genuineness of their image and self-presentation.
They want to ensure their image and self-presentation are a product of themselves and not of the defined culture and society they belong to (Ting-Toomey ICS 225). Another concept in the Facework Negotiation Theory is the idea of low and high context cultures. This idea of low and high context is very closely linked to individualism and collectivism. According to Ting-Toomey, low context cultures (United States, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Norway) uses individual value orientation, line logic, direct verbal interaction, and individualistic nonverbal style (Ting-Toomey ICS 225), to define how they interact.
This differs from a high context culture (China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea), in that high context cultures uses group value orientation, spiral logic, indirect verbal interaction, and contextual nonverbal style (Ting-Toomey ICS 225). The low and high context culture systems are very closely related to individualism and collectivism respectfully. It is when a conflict arises between two cultures, where one represents an individualistic, low context culture and the other a collectivistic, high context culture, that the two negotiating sides have the hardest time coming to an agreement. An important factor of these low and high context cultures is the idea of verbal and nonverbal communication styles. An individualistic (low context) style involves the idea that intentions in communication go hand in hand with the verbal and nonverbal patterns being used, and that these intentions are clearly exhibited.
This is different from contextual verbal and nonverbal communication styles in that, the intentions of the person communicating and the meanings they associate with their verbal and nonverbal patterns are interpreted within the defined guidelines of their cultural context. Basically what this means is that meanings in low context cultures are achieved by using direct communication, while in high context cultures meaning is derived from the existing numerous levels of social norms and values. What this all means in relation to Facework and face negotiation is that in low context and individualistic cultures, face giving and protection is gained through a linear logic emphasizing a cost-reward-comparison (Ting-Toomey ICS 225), while face concern in a low context, collectivistic society takes any positive face or negative face action and applies it to much larger social or group standards. A person from a high context society would apply any implications made in the conflict not only to themselves, but also to their society / group /culture as a whole. Ting-Toomey stresses that these ideas must be taken into account when dealing with such scenarios, because each negotiator will construct his face concerns based on two different cultural backgrounds (Ting-Toomey ICS 224-226).
The model of Facework constructed by Ting-Toomey involves two principles. The first is that people negotiate over face-concern. That is, people in managing conflict, use the ideas of self-face, other-face and mutual-face to guide how they negotiate the conflict. These three faces refer to the amount of attention each person gives to the self, to the other person and to each equally. The second principle is that people negotiate over face-need, or negative and positive face. This principle deals with a persons need for independence / self -rule, or approval (Cocroft, Ting-Toomey Face-Japan/US 473).
If one were to look at the Face Negotiation theory, they would be able to see that the theory has two major ideas under it. These are what the two parties are trying to balance in the negotiation process. That is, positive face and negative face. These terms are somewhat self-explanatory, but basically can be explained in a compromise analogy. In Facework negotiating, as in any compromise situation, the two sides give a little on each side and get a little on each side.
It is during this pulling and pushing for balance is negotiation in its own. There is a median that is trying to be reached on both sides that both can be happy with, or even at least a point that is tolerable for each party involved. In face negotiation in an intercultural setting, as in any setting, each side has their own self-face concern and an other-face concern. It is on which end of the spectrum, self-face, other-face, each party places more emphasis on, that decides how they deal with the conflict. This is looked at as attaining self positive-face, self-negative-face, other positive-face and other negative-face. When one side is gaining self-positive-face the other side is experiencing other negative-face.
The idea of positive and negative faces has to be considered and understood when dealing with conflicts form culture to culture. For example, a Japanese student may be more inclined to use self positive-face in a conflict to fulfill the need for inclusion and association with others, typical of a high context culture (Ting-Toomey ICS 219). The Facework strategies of individualism, collectivism, low context cultures and high context cultures are the main strategies of the theory. It is these concepts through which the theory was able to grow. Researchers looked at what the theory is based on, individualism, collectivism, conflict, low and high context cultures, and built the theory around these blocks.
The Facework theory has not necessarily grown through extension, that is, through adding knowledge and new concepts, but more through intension; by developing a deeper understanding of the original concepts and variables. The original theory from Ting-Toomey was based on 12 propositions dealing with individualistic and collectivistic societies. By looking at specific societies such as Japan (collectivistic) and the United States (individualistic), a deeper and more in-depth understanding of these societies was gained to widen the theory. Many studies have been done using the United States and Japan. One study involved 197 college students from the United States and 190 from Japan, with proportions of men and women basically equivalent. The test was deemed the Individualism and Collectivism Manipulation Check.
Each student was given a questionnaire / survey to fill out. Some examples from the surveys are, I would blame myself for whatever the problem is, I would accuse my classmate of wrongdoing, I would try indirectly to get my classmate to volunteer, It is better to consult others and their opinions before you do anything, etc, etc. What came from this experiment was that Japanese students surprisingly showed a higher individualistic score than expected. Actually, it was even higher than their American counterparts. I feel that after surveys and experiments such as this, Ting-Toomey had to expand her original theory criteria.
The original twelve propositions were based on the idea of cultures and societies being either individualistic or collectivistic. It was understood that these two concepts were cut and dry, and that every society in the world fell into one or the other on the whole. She was basically forced to expand her theory to incorporate the idea that people in each society may in fact be the opposite of what researchers thought they were (Cocroft 485). There are many uses for the Facework Negotiation Theory and numerous applications. Five important applications to this theory are the following. 1.
Face Negotiation can be used towards any intercultural problem that may arise involving face-saving actions (Ting-Toomey ICS 230). 2. It can be used in situations where a certain partys face is threatened at a high level (Ting-Toomey ICS 230). 3. It can be applied to a given situation where two intercultural parties may have a high level of uncertainty and an extra coating of politeness is in order (Ting-Toomey ICS 230).
4. It can be applied to a situation along with other communication acts, such as compliment acts or insult acts (Ting-Toomey ICS 230). 5. Finally, it can be used with other theories, such as compliance gaining, to achieve a certain goal (Ting-Toomey ICS 230). Overall, I feel this theory to be useful when looking at intercultural conflicts and trying to explain why someone reacts (saving face) one way from one culture and why someone from a different culture acts (saving face) another way. My final understanding of the theory can be summed up with the following statements.
That is, when dealing with conflict management, Facework is constantly happening. There is a constant negotiation of face giving, face gaining and face sharing. If two parties are dealing with face negotiation in an intercultural context, each person must change which aspect of face he is focusing towards from one culture to the next (Ting-Toomey ICS 231). The expansion of the theory from 12 to 32 propositions was needed in order to take into account specific behavioral acts inside a culture.
If I were to try and explain, describe and analyze the conflict management styles of two parties from two different cultures I would definitely use Ting-Toomeys Facework theory, but I would not adhere to it exactly. I would use it as a guide to see what she has come up with. The theory needs to be expanded to when specific situations in specific cultures can be dealt with simply by referring to Ting-Toomeys set of propositions. The studies done thus far have provided the groundwork for further research to be continued in the future.
Cocroft, Beth-Ann, et al. Facework in Japan and the United States, International Journal of Intercultural Relations. Vol 18, No 4. Fall 1994. 469-506 Ting-Toomey, Stella, et al.
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