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Steve Schierholz

Final paper
Comm 2050-02
Shirene McKay
In this paper, I will be discussing Face Negotiation Theory, which
evaluates how we communicate and what we do when communicating with
others. I will be defining the theory, giving a current status of the theory,
evaluating the theory, and suggesting improvements for the theory. I will
utilize this theory to evaluate how we interact with others and the impact
this has on our relationships.
Theory Definition and Approaches
In its simplest form, Face Negotiation Theory evaluates how individuals
manage conflict within a relationship or an interaction. In detail, each of us
have our own face or image, and a general idea of how we want others to
perceive our face. As stated in our textbook face is a metaphor for the
public image people display (West & Turner, 2010, p. 450). As an individual
in an interaction, we want to ensure that we take actions that will preserve
our face and also display the face that we want others to see, defined as face
restoration (West & Turner, 2010, p. 458). Our culture also determines how
we interact with others and what technique we use to navigate within a
conflict. In a conflict with others, we want to make sure that we preserve not
only our face, but the face of those around us, defined as face concern. This
will also determine our actions within a conflict to ensure that we are
protecting ourselves and others when we are in a conflict.
Within this theory, we also formulate our own face, dependent upon
how we want or need to be viewed by ourselves and others. There are two
different types of face. The first is positive face, which is the desire to be
liked and admired by others (West & Turner, 2010, p. 450). The second type
of face is negative face, which is the desire to be autonomous and free from
others (West & Turner, 2010, p. 451). I believe that we all have the desire to
achieve both of these within our own lives and relationships. For example, if I
am with my girlfriend, I want to ensure that I have a positive face with her so
that she continues to like me and want to spend time with me. If I were to
want to have negative face with her then our relationship would have a
whole new dynamic to it and it probably wouldnt last for very long. When a
face is damaged, we have a tendency to want to restore our face as well as
the face of others who were involved. The actions that we take to do this can
be defined as face work, where we take actions to deal with face needs and
wants of self and others (West & Turner, 2010, p. 452). For example, if I were

to get in an argument with a coworker that didnt go exactly as I had

planned, then I would want to take action to repair my face as well as my
coworkers face. There are many different approaches to doing this, and I
believe that it all depends on the person when it comes to the approach to
repair face. Before an interaction like this happens, there is a possibility that
either party involved in the interaction would want to take actions to save
face. This can be defined as face saving which is efforts to avoid
embarrassment or vulnerability within an interaction (West & Turner, 2010, p.
455). If these actions were not successful and the interaction that I had with
my coworker went poorly, then we may need to take actions to preserve
autonomy and avoid loss of face which is defined as face restoration (West &
Turner, 2010, p. 455).
One of the critical aspects of the Face Negotiation theory that we have
discussed is taking action to preserve our face as well as others, or face
management, but we have yet to discuss the action in great detail. There are
many types of actions that we may take to ensure that we are doing what we
can to preserve face. Five stand out as the most common. First is avoiding,
where you stay away from agreements to ensure that we dont damage our
own face or others. In some situations we may also oblige, where we try to
satisfy the needs of others to avoid a disagreement or conflict. The most
common type in my opinion is compromising, where you use the give and
take approach to achieve middle ground within an interaction or decision.
This I can be the most common within relationships, because you need to be
able to compromise to make a relationship work. If you were not able to do
this, then one party may not be as happy as the other and this can cause
conflict down the road. The fourth common conflict management style is
dominating the interaction, meaning that we use influence or authority to
make decisions. This can commonly be found within the work place. What
would be more appealing in the work place would be integration, which is
collaborating with others to find solutions. As you can see there are many
different actions that one can take within an interaction, and the actions that
we take are all dependent on the person and the environment of the
Current Theory Status
Face Negotiation Theory was first developed for a specific purpose, but
has since been utilized in many different ways. One of the ways that this
theory was used was to test and extend Face Negotiation Theory to crosscultural romantic relationship contexts by adding three scales, in a study
done by a number of scientists (Chang, Chen, Fletcher, Nakazawa, Oetzel,
Ting-Toomey, Zhang, 2014). Within this study, they were able to identify
different factors that could contribute and extend this theory. This study was
the first step in extending the Face Negotiation Theory to show how it can

influence the romantic relationships that individuals have when the

relationship is cross-cultural.
The next interesting study that I found was in regards to physician
communication in the operating room and how this theory relates to this. I
found a study that was done by Kristin Kirschbaum that outlines how this
theory plays a crucial role in the communication within an operation room.
The study was able to identify three implications that warrant further
investigation: (1) An intercultural communication theory and instrument can
be utilized for health communication research; (2) as applied in a medical
context, face-negotiation theory can be expanded beyond traditional
intercultural communication boundaries; and (3) theoretically based
communication structures applied in a medical context could help explain
physician miscommunication in the operation room to assist future design of
communication training programs for operation-room physicians
(Kirschbaum, 2012).
Another interesting study that I found was in relation to facework on
Facebook. In this study it explored the strategic facework practices of an
under-researched youth population. This article also analyses their use of
online social networking sites using the Asian concept of face. These youths
online facework, geared towards gaining face, giving face, and avoiding loss
of face, reflects the power dynamics underlying gang interactions which,
when conducted over Facebook, become highly observable to gang
members (Basnyat, Chan, Lim, and Vadrevu; 2012). This study also goes on
to describe the different actions that gang members take with Facebook and
the implications that it can have when used.
The last study that I found that I felt was interesting was the article on
Linking emotion to the Conflict Face-Negotiation Theory (Oetzel, TingToomey, and Zhang; 2014). In this study they linked emotion to the
theoretical assumptions of the face negotiation theory and probed the critical
role of anger, compassion, and guilt in understanding the complex pathways
of their relationships with self-construal, face concerns, and conflict styles in
U.S. and Chinese cultures (Oetzel, Ting-Toomey, and Zhang; 2014). The
results of this study showed anger was associated positively with
independent self-construal, self-face concern, and the competing style, and
compassion was associated positively with interdependent self-construal,
other-face concern, and the integrating, compromising, and obliging
styles(Oetzel, Ting-Toomey, and Zhang; 2014).
While the three studies utilized very different communication
platforms, they are all studying the way that this theory can be applied to
many different types of interactions that we have with each other. It has also
shown that this theory can be extended in many different ways to allow us to

better understand what we do and why we do it when we are communication

with others.
Theory Evaluation
My evaluation of this theory is that it is a useful tool to be able to
utilize to better understand the actions we take in an interaction with others.
The strength of this theory is that it provides a solid foundation to be able to
analyze an interaction and our actions within that same interaction. This
allows us to better understand what we can do to be able to navigate an
interaction with others, which can help with communication on a larger scale.
I also like the fact that it gives a definition to certain actions we take so that
we can easily identify what we do within an interaction. This allows us to
view a past interaction that we had and formulate a better way to be able to
manage this type of interaction in the future. This will allow us to have a
better interaction with either the same person or someone else down the
road. I believe this theory has good parsimony because it is able to identify
certain actions we take to save face or restore face. It also puts a label on
each of these which makes this theory in depth and specific to interactions
that we have on a daily basis. I also think that this theory is a good example
of heurism because there have been many studies that have been started
based off the concepts of this theory. This theory has also allowed us to
better understand other types of interactions that we have that may not be
specific to intercultural communications.
The only weakness that I can see with this theory is the fact that it
doesnt explore how this theory can be applied in a group setting. For
example, a good portion of my job is done in a group setting and there are
many individuals that are involved in the interaction.
Improvements to Theory
I can see this theory being applied to a group type of interaction, but in
order to better understand how this works, I think that we would need to
explore this interaction separately and use the concepts from this theory to
extend the theory even further. This could help us better communicate with
others in a group setting, rather than just on a one on one basis. Another
way to improve this theory could be a guide on what we can do to repair face
when we do certain actions. I believe that this can better help us
communicate with others since we can identify some actions that we can
take to restore face or even save your face in certain interactions. I know
that this can be hard since there are many different types of interactions, but
I believe giving specific examples could better help us overall as we can
apply the concept to many different types of interactions.

In conclusion, I was able to define the theory, show the current status
of the theory, my evaluation of the theory, and what improvements that I
would do to improve the theory. Face Negotiation Theory has great tools to
better understand the actions we take when communicating with others. This
theory has also been a great spring board to be able to better understand
certain communication situations that we may encounter in our everyday
lives. This also shows that there can be improvements made within this
theory to better help us communicate not only on a one on one basis but
within group settings. Either way, this theory has a great foundation and will
be utilized to better understand communication in other ways that the
creator never thought possible.

Fletcher, Courtney Vail, Masato Nakazawa, Yea-Wen Chen, John G. Oetzel,
Stella Ting-Toomey, Shau-Ju Chang, and Qin Zhang. "Establishing
Cross-Cultural Measurement Equivalence of Scales Associated with
Face-Negotiation Theory: A Critical Issue in Cross-Cultural
Comparisons." Journal of International and Intercultural Communication
7.2 (2014): 148-69. Web.
Kirschbaum, Kristin. "Physician Communication in the Operating Room:
Expanding Application of Face-Negotiation Theory to the Health
Communication Context." Health Communication 27.3 (2012): 292301. Web.
Lim, Sun Sun, Shobha Vadrevu, Yoke Hian Chan, and Iccha Basnyat.
"Facework on Facebook: The Online Publicness of Juvenile Delinquents
and Youths-at-Risk." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56.3
(2012): 346-61. Web.
West, Richard, and Lynn H. Turner. Introducing Communication Theory. 4th
ed. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.
Zhang, Qin, Stella Ting-Toomey, and John G. Oetzel. "Linking Emotion to the
Conflict Face-Negotiation Theory: A U.S.-China Investigation of the
Mediating Effects Of Anger, Compassion, and Guilt In Interpersonal
Conflict." Human Communication Research 40.3 (2014): 373-95. Web.