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Facework Negotiation Theory
Stella Ting-Toomey looked at intercultural interaction, including conflict and negotiation, along with Hofstede’s notion of individualism versus collectivism and Hall’s 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 Chall. 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 someone’s 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 one’s 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 person’s 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...
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